United States Attorney
District of Connecticut
Friday, January 6, 2012
Connecticut Man Sentenced to Four Years in Federal Prison for Role in Mortgage Fraud Scheme
Jo’Mell Thomas, 30, of Wallingford, Conn., was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson in Hartford, Conn., to 48 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for his role in an extensive mortgage fraud scheme, announced David B. Fein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut.
According to court documents and statements made in court, between February 2007 and April 2010, Syed Babar of New London, Conn., orchestrated a scheme to obtain millions of dollars in residential real estate loans, including loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration, through the use of sham sales contracts, false loan applications and fraudulent property appraisals. Thomas assisted Babar by recruiting “straw” buyers to apply for numerous residential real estate loans using false information that Babar and others had generated. The false information included information about the straw buyer’s employment, income, assets and liabilities. After closing on a house on which one of the individuals, who had been recruited by Thomas, had served as the straw buyer, Thomas was paid a fee.
Contrary to the representations made on the loan applications, the straw purchasers never occupied the houses as their primary residences. They defaulted on the loans they obtained and let the houses go into foreclosure.
In March 2007, Thomas, at the direction of Babar, agreed to open a bank account for a fictitious construction company called Sheda Telle Construction LLC. The purpose of the fictitious construction company and its bank account was to divert fraud proceeds to it and, in some cases, falsely justify the artificially inflated sales price of houses based on renovations purportedly made to the property that, in fact, did not occur.
Almost all the money deposited into the account of Sheda Telle Construction LLC was derived from loan proceeds generated by real estate closings conducted as part of the underlying mortgage fraud scheme. In many instances, the money was withdrawn as cash soon after it was deposited as a result of a real estate closing. For instance, on March 19, 2008, approximately $64,995.94 was wired into the Sheda Telle account from a lawyer’s trust account in connection with the sale of a home in Meriden, Conn. Approximately one week later, $64,700 was withdrawn in cash from the account. As another example, on Nov. 20, 2008, approximately $76,591.09 was wired into the Sheda Telle account from a lawyer’s trust account in connection with the sale of a home in New Haven, Conn. The next day, $74,000 was withdrawn in cash from the account.
Between approximately March 2007 and October 2009, approximately $977,979 was deposited into the account of the fictitious construction company, and approximately $977,648 was withdrawn from the account. The money was distributed among the co-conspirators at Babar’s direction.
Babar and his co-conspirators conducted approximately 30 fraudulent mortgage transactions. As a result, various lenders suffered total losses of approximately $4.75 million.
Today, Chief Judge Thompson ordered Thomas to pay restitution in the amount of $4,180,575.
On March 7, 2011, Thomas pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
On Feb. 1, 2011, Babar pleaded guilty to multiple federal charges related to his leadership of this scheme. On Nov. 28, 2011, he was sentenced to 120 months in prison.
This case was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG) and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric J. Glover, Susan Wines and Liam Brennan.
Citizens are encouraged to report any suspected mortgage fraud activity by calling 203-333-3512 and requesting the Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force includes representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office; FBI; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; HUD-OIG; Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General, and State of Connecticut Department of Banking.
This case was brought in coordination with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which was established to wage an aggressive and coordinated 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.
To report financial fraud crimes, and to learn more about the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, please visit www.stopfraud.gov .