Two defendants sentenced in federal court in mortgage fraud case
Two people were recently sentenced in federal court on charges tied to a mortgage fraud scheme that involved properties in Cape Coral.
Tracey Balli and Delano McLennon were sentenced Dec. 10 by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro in Miami. Both had pleaded guilty to one count of a false statement on a HUD-1 settle form, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Balli received three years of probation, 12 months of home detention and supervised release and was ordered to pay restitution. As as employee of a mortgage company located in Plantation, she oversaw the closings on four properties, including one at 3920 S.E. 16th Place.
Balli’s attorney, Roshawn Banks, said Ungaro listened to their case.
“I thought the sentenced was very fair,” she said.
McLennon was sentenced to three years of probation, six months of home detention and supervised release and was also ordered to pay restitution. He posed as a straw buyer and was paid to be a straw buyer for two properties, including one at 3431 S.E. Fifth Place.
Attorney Jamie Benjamin, who represented McLennon, said Friday that he and his client are “very very pleased” with Ungaro’s ruling.
“These cases involving mortgage fraud are so pervasive in our state now,” he said. “Unscrupulous businesses bring in people who don’t understand the gravity of what they are doing.”
He said McLennon simply agreed to have the properties put in his name, and “things snowballed.” Others inflated McLennon’s earnings and provided false information to “make it seem like he was something he wasn’t” to get loans. When McLennon learned of the federal investigation, he tried to assist the government by providing any information needed, Benjamin added.
“These prosecutions are going to have an effect,” he said. “It’s going to stop other people from engaging in similar conduct.”
According to the indictment, co-defendant Anson Joachin and four others submitted fraudulent home loan applications, employment forms and other documents during the mortgage lending process to obtain loans, then used straw buyers to purchase the properties.
The group procured a total of more then $5 million in fraudulent loans.
The scheme also involved properties in Fort Lauderdale, Jupiter and Royal Palm Beach, and the group caused more than 10 real estate transactions to occur in which the material provided to lenders contained false information.
John Fisher and Justina Bryan also were sentenced in court Dec. 10.
Fisher was given 20 months in prison and three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay restitution. Bryan received the same sentence as Balli — three years of probation, 12 months of home detention, supervised and restitution payments.
Fisher worked as a licensed mortgage broker, while Bryan acted as straw buyer and oversaw closings on multiple properties, the indictment states.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Joachin pleaded guilty in December.
“I think the judge did a fair evaluation of the evidence presented to her and gave them a reasonable sentence,” attorney Terence Lenamon, who is representing Joachin, said Friday of his client’s co-defendants.
Lenamon believes that Joachin’s sentence will be higher than what Fisher received, but as reasonable as those delivered to his client’s co-defendants. He added that Joachin has agreed to cooperate with the government and will provide officials with any information that they need.
Joachin has a sentencing hearing scheduled for Feb. 11.