DALLAS—Following a week-long trial before Chief U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater, a federal jury has convicted Gregory Lashon Thomas, 41, of Desoto, Texas, on various offenses related to a multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme he ran in the Dallas area, announced U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.
Specifically, the jury convicted Thomas on all four counts of the indictment—one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and three counts of mail fraud. Each of the counts carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Restitution could also be ordered. Thomas will remain on bond, pending his sentencing, which is set for December 21, 2012, before Judge Fitzwater.
The two co-defendants, charged in the case, Aja D. Crawford, aka Aja Abercrombie, 35, of Irving, Texas; and Ernest Ohenekitiwa McMillan, 42, of Dallas, each pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, as charged in a superseding indictment. Each faces a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Restitution could also be ordered. Both are scheduled to be sentenced on January 11, 2013.
The evidence at trial showed that Thomas ran two real estate “investment” businesses called Investor Source and Myriad Investments. Thomas located sellers who wanted to unload excess properties and were willing to “kick back” substantially all of their proceeds to the defendant. Thomas then recruited straw buyers, including co-defendant McMillan, and worked with loan officers, including co-defendant Crawford, to prepare and submit fraudulent loan applications on the buyers’ behalf.
The loan applications contained numerous material false statements, such as overstating the buyer’s income level or assets. For instance, the evidence showed that one of the straw buyers, who had just been released from federal prison and was living in a halfway house and earning minimum wage, falsely represented on his loan application that he made nearly $100,000 per year and had an account with more than $34,000. That loan application also identified a Washington Mutual bank account that actually belonged to the defendant. Not only was the bank account controlled by the defendant, but he and the loan officer also altered a bank statement to make it appear as if the account was owned by the straw buyer.
The evidence further showed that Thomas received a substantial kickback from the seller after each of the transactions closed and then disbursed a portion of those kickbacks to the co-defendants and others involved in the fraud. Thomas also assisted the buyers in closing on the properties by obtaining cashier’s checks, in the buyer’s name, for the down payment on the properties.
The properties at issue in the indictment are three upscale townhouses located off Ross Avenue in Dallas, just east of downtown.
Thomas’s kickbacks have resulted in a $200,000 money judgment to be forfeited to the government. The scheme involved approximately $6 million in fraudulently-obtained proceeds and $2 million in estimated losses.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
The case was investigated by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Nicholas Bunch and Joseph Revesz are in charge of the prosecution.