Friday, March 14, 2008

Las Vegas Broker Defaults on 118 Properties

It never fails, there is always someone who figures out a brilliant scheme to beat the system. But instead of leaving while the going is good, they get too greedy and end up with their hand caught in the cookie jar.

Several years ago one such enterprising soul went around town and broke into over 40 HUD repos. These are Las Vegas foreclosures that are usually vacant, and it may take HUD a while to get around to processing them through the system. He then proceeded to replace the HUD sign with a "for rent" sign, rented out the properties and collected hefty security deposits as well as the first month's rent.

But not content to take the money and run, this guy stuck around for over six months amassing additional rent. Until one day HUD wised up and the Feds showed up to arrest him as he was making his monthly collections. A couple who later became one of our clients was a tenant of this fellow who they said could not have been nicer. The had chosen the home because it was near the Las Vegas schools they wanted their children to attend.

Now a Las Vegas real estate broker and her husband are facing federal charges they made millions of dollars orchestrating a mortgage fraud scheme during the crazy days of sub prime lending.

U.S. Attorney for Nevada Gregory Brower says Eve Mazzarella, 30, and her husband, Steven Grimm, 45, were indicted Wednesday on bank fraud, money laundering and aiding and abetting charges.

According to the report, Mazzarella and her husband have been charged in connection with a scheme in which they fraudulently obtained mortgages on hundreds of Las Vegas homes here in the Valley. The feds say the couple submitted or arranged to have straw buyers submit loan applications which they knew contained false information and kept most if not all of the money for themselves.

"These schemers have contributed significantly to the demise of the real estate market in Las Vegas," FBI Special Agent Steven Martinez said. "This type of fraud scheme impacts the real estate market generally. It's like credit card fraud. We all pay a little bit more in terms of our credit card bills because of fraud. The same thing is true with mortgage fraud. We're all victims

Grimm was arrested Thursday in Las Vegas and is due to appear Friday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. Brower says Mazzarella is being sought. If convicted, each could face decades in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

The government alleges Mazzarella and Grimm bought more than 200 properties at inflated values using limited liability companies and more than 400 straw buyers to make purchase offers.

The couple allegedly controlled transactions worth more than $100 million.

They allegedly defaulted on mortgage payments on many of the loans, causing at least 118 properties to be sold in foreclosure.