Loan officer sentenced in Wildwood Crest mortgage fraud

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WILDWOOD CREST – A Wells Fargo loan officer from Ocean County has been sentenced to two years in prison for his role in a $40.8 million mortgage fraud scheme that involved overbuilt condos in Wildwood Crest, according to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman’s office.

Robert Serao, 48, of Bayville, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He is one of 10 defendants to plead guilty in the case.

On July 9, Flemington lawyer Joseph Witkowski pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme as well.

According to Fishman, while Serao was working in various positions – including branch manager, sales manager and loan officer – within Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Inc., a division of Wells Fargo Bank N.A., he entered into a conspiracy to submit mortgage loans to his employer for financially unqualified “straw buyers” based upon false and fraudulent information contained in Uniform Residential Loan Applications, HUD-1 Forms, tax returns and other documents.

Serao’s conspirators submitted fraudulent mortgage loan applications and supporting documents to Wells Fargo and numerous other mortgage lenders in various straw buyers’ names, attributing to them inflated income and assets in order to induce the mortgage lenders to approve the loans, Fishman said. Once the loans were approved and the mortgage lenders sent the loan proceeds in connection with the real estate closings on the properties, Serao’s conspirators took a portion of the proceeds from the fraudulent mortgage loans.

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage released more than $4.6 million based on fraudulent mortgage loan applications. Serao profited from his role in the conspiracy by increased commissions on the mortgage funds, according to Fishman’s office.

In addition to the prison term, Serao was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $1,520,606.


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