Scheme Involved More Than $2.8 Million
WASHINGTON—Chester D. Ransom, Jr., 45, the vice president of a property management company, was sentenced today to six years in prison for defrauding his clients, mortgage lenders, and the government out of more than $2.8 million.
The sentence was announced by Ronald C. Machen, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Peter Rendina, Acting Inspector in Charge, Washington Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service; James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; and Rick A. Raven, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.
Along with Bryan W. Talbott, 49, Ransom pleaded guilty in January 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the government. Ransom was sentenced today by the Honorable Robert L. Wilkins. In addition to his prison sentence, Ransom was sentenced to five years of supervised release. As part of their plea agreements, Ransom and Talbott agreed to criminal forfeiture and restitution of more than $2.8 million.
Talbott’s sentencing was continued until a later date after he was arrested on June 14, 2012, pursuant to a warrant issued by Judge Wilkins based on an alleged violation of Talbott’s conditions of release.
According to the government’s evidence, Talbott was the president, and Ransom was the vice president of a property management company located in Washington, D.C. that operated under multiple names, including Esquire LLC, Federal City Mowbray, and Private Properties Inc. (collectively referred to as “Esquire”). The defendants also lived together at a residence on North Portal Drive NW in Washington, D.C.
From 2004 to the present, the defendants engaged in three separate fraudulent schemes, resulting in more than $2.8 million in losses to the victims.
Fraud Relating to Property Management
Through their property management company, Esquire, the defendants entered into contracts with numerous property owners in the Washington, D.C. area to manage their rental properties. Under many of the contracts, the defendants were required to collect rental payments from tenants and use those funds to pay bills relating to the properties, such as utility bills. After paying any bills and deducting an administrative fee, the defendants were required to remit the remainder of the rental payments to the property owners.
As part of their fraudulent scheme, the defendants frequently collected rental payments from tenants but did not pay the bills for the properties, despite falsely representing to the property owners that the bills had been paid. Instead, the defendants used these funds for their own benefit. In addition, the defendants also sent forged bank statements to some of their clients, misstating the balances in their clients’ accounts.
Through this fraudulent scheme, the defendants defrauded at least 54 clients out of a total of $1,269,278.
On June 30, 2004, Ransom purchased the property on North Portal Drive NW for $975,000, financing the purchase, in part, with two loans in the total amount of $731,250 from WMC Mortgage Corp., a mortgage lender. Ransom executed two deeds of trust on the property, granting WMC a security interest in the property.
On December 29, 2005, Ransom filed with the District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds two forged Certificates of Satisfaction, purporting to release the WMC liens on the Portal property.
Then, on January 13, 2006, Ransom sold the Portal property to Talbott for $1,110,000. The defendants provided copies of the forged lien releases to the settlement company. Talbott obtained a loan in the amount of $750,000 from Fremont Investment and Loan. Talbott executed a deed of trust on the property, granting Fremont a security interest in the property. Ransom received a check in the amount of $515,034 from the settlement.
Less than a month later, on February 2, 2006, Ransom again “sold” the Portal property to Talbott, this time for $1,250,000, despite the fact that Talbott was already the legal owner. The defendants provided copies of the forged lien releases to the settlement company. Talbott obtained a loan of $890,000 from First National Bank of Arizona. Talbott executed a deed of trust on the property, granting First National Bank of Arizona a security interest in the property. Ransom received a check in the amount of $801,280 from the settlement.
For tax year 2006, the defendants filed false federal and District of Columbia tax returns. For both of their federal and D.C. taxes, the defendants submitted Forms W-2 that indicated federal and D.C. income tax withholdings in the following amounts:
Filer Federal Income Tax Withheld
(Box 2) State Income Tax (Box 17)
Talbott $214,677 $75,432
Ransom $86,544 $31,222
In fact, the defendants did not have any actual federal or D.C. income tax withholdings for tax year 2006. Talbott’s false tax returns generated a federal tax refund in the amount of $66,655 and a D.C. tax refund in the amount of $30,897. Ransom’s 2006 federal and D.C. tax refunds were blocked prior to disbursement.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen, Acting Inspector in Charge Rendina, Assistant Director McJunkin, and Special Agent in Charge Raven commended the outstanding investigative work of Postal Inspector Steven Sultan of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; agents of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; agents of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, and Kevin Craddock of the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Criminal Investigation Division. They also praised the efforts of members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including forensic accountants in the Fraud and Public Corruption Section; Paralegals Diane Hayes and Sarah Reis; former Paralegal Carolyn Cody; Legal Assistants Jamasee Lucas, Krishawn Graham, and Nicole Wattelet; Information Technology Specialist Joshua Ellen; former intern Sierra Tate, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Saler, who worked on forfeiture issues; and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Johnson, who prosecuted the case.