CHARLESTON, WV—U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced today that a Utah man pleaded guilty in federal court for his involvement in a multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme linked to properties at a Putnam County, West Virginia. subdivision. Raymond Paul Morris, 51, of South Weber, Utah, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and bank fraud. Morris admitted to participating in the sophisticated multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme in early 2006 along with co-conspirators Deborah L. Joyce, 38, of Hurricane, West Virginia, and Michael Hurd, 37, of Utah.
The mortgage fraud scheme based on properties in the Stonegate subdivision involved illegal property “flipping” to out-of-state borrowers at inflated prices using a company called “The Gift Program” or “Advanced Capital Services” that was operated at the time by co-conspirator Hurd. Hurd described The Gift Program as a “seller-funded down payment assistance program” used to provide home buyer’s money to make down payment and initial mortgage payments on real estate purchases. Hurd further admitted that he used The Gift Program to create an elaborate scheme to defraud lenders by concealing the transfer of loan funds to the borrower from the lender. In essence, through the use of The Gift Program, lenders unwittingly funded their own down payment and made the initial mortgage payments.
Deborah Joyce obtained inflated appraisals from two local appraisers, James Thornton and Mark Greenlee, and subsequently sent the appraisals on to Raymond Morris in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Morris admitted that he then identified investors in Utah to purchase the Stonegate properties at fraudulently inflated prices, while claiming that the properties were significantly undervalued. Morris then got those investors in contact with Hurd, who then used The Gift Program to conceal the transfer of a portion of the loan proceeds to the investor from the lender. Morris admitted that he received an undisclosed “commission” from Hurd for the referral.
Hurd also admitted at his plea in November 2011 that during the scheme, he wired additional loan funds to the investor to make initial mortgage payments. Once those funds ran out, the investors defaulted on the loans and the properties went into foreclosure.
Hurd, Joyce, and Morris illegally flipped a total of six properties in the Stonegate subdivision. The respective lender losses totaled almost $2 million.
At the same time, Morris and Hurd orchestrated a similar investment-type scheme in Modesto, California.
Hurd previously pleaded guilty in November 2011 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. The defendant also pleaded guilty to mail fraud arising out of his involvement in a similar scheme in Modesto, California. Hurd acknowledged that he was involved in illegally flipping 20 properties with losses in excess of $5.5 million. As part of his plea agreement, Hurd agreed to transfer those charges from the Eastern District of California to the Southern District of West Virginia so the matters could be disposed of jointly. Morris agreed to include the lender losses suffered as a result of the Modesto, California illegal property flips as relevant conduct for sentencing purposes here in the Southern District of West Virginia.
Deborah L. Joyce was sentenced in April 2011 to three years and 10 months in prison and five years of supervised release for her involvement in the Stonegate subdivision mortgage fraud scheme. Joyce’s husband, Todd Joyce, 38, of Hurricane, Putnam County, West Virginia, was also sentenced in April 2011 to one year and six months in prison on mortgage fraud and tax evasion charges.
Hurd faces up to 60 years in prison and a $2 million fine when he is sentenced on August 10, 2012.
Morris faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine when he is sentenced on October 29, 2012 by United States District Judge Thomas E. Johnston.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigative Division. Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Ryan is in charge of the prosecution. This case was prosecuted as part of President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.