Page 4 of 7
And within the 275-page stack of indictments, the name of one brokerage firm crops up most often, with the most egregious allegations: Gold Coast Mortgage Group Inc.
Gold Coast is one of the few state-licensed brokerage firms named in any of the indictments -- most were bogus "shell" companies. Yet the Gold Coast scam artists went to greater lengths than any defendants to beat the system.
The stolen identity cases arising from the now-defunct Gold Coast firm show the scam at its most deceptive, blurring the ability to determine who is real and who is imagined, who is victim and who is perpetrator. And because the roots of the scam extended deep into many neighborhoods, behind facades that didn't give a clue from the curbside, the fraud traveled far before it was noticed.
Twelve of the 14 Gold Coast defendants have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from loans made over the past four years. Their actions, as alleged in the indictments, border on the comical:
In November 2001, defendant Curtis Prysock picked up a homeless man named Al Jacobs "from the streets of downtown Atlanta," the indictment states. Prysock took Jacobs to West End Mall, to have pictures taken for what would become a false driver's license. He then brought Jacobs to Gold Coast's office in Stone Mountain, where he, broker Kay Polote and others began to reinvent the homeless man as a wealthy minister named Clarence McGinty.
Defendant Wayne Milton allegedly teamed up with the Gold Coast group by stealing the Social Security number of McGinty, his father-in-law. Jacobs got a driver's license and Social Security card in McGinty's name. And Milton, pretending to be a bishop of "Greater Grace" church, signed a fake verification of employment form stating that "McGinty" was his head minister -- and earned $100,000 a year.
"We've never heard of him," Herb Skeens, spokesman of the Conyers-based Greater Grace Ministries, says of Milton. "We've never even had a bishop at Greater Grace Church. It's not a position that we recognize."
Prysock then bought "McGinty" fake W-2s and pay stubs from another co-defendant, Curtis Johnson. And in the next three months, Jacobs, posing as McGinty, qualified for a $269,000 mortgage on a Stone Mountain home, a $160,000 mortgage on an Atlanta home and a $38,000 Mercedes CLK 320 convertible. In the company of "Bishop" Milton, the homeless man attended the closings, a task for which Gold Coast paid him $900. He, too, was indicted.
Several of the brokers and other defendants split the broker's fees on the homes, which sat empty. Dalva Ray Orange, part owner of Gold Coast, allegedly drove the Mercedes. He also arranged 12 other fraudulent loans since 1998, signing applications, pocketing fees and even posing as a borrower himself in six of the loans -- crimes for which he was indicted on charges of fraud and money laundering. Orange pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.
Gold Coast broker Polote also pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing, for earning $621,000 in broker's fees on 80 fraudulent loans and using six stolen Social Security numbers to invent qualified borrowers.
In addition to Polote and Orange, seven other defendants in the Gold Coast ring will soon be sentenced in federal court. Two more have not yet pleaded. And another three -- all of them former Citizens Trust Bank employees -- have been sentenced to up to five months in jail and ordered bo pay $58,000 in restitution for signing false bank documents for Gold Coast's imaginary borrowers.
Neither the Gold Coast indictments nor the others (see sidebar: P. 39) identify by name any of the people whose Social Security numbers were stolen, except for McGinty and a woman named Joyce Jones. They could not be reached.
When asked whether the identity theft victims suffered major credit problems as a result of the scams, U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Patrick Crosby said yes. He would not elaborate.
U.S. Attorney's Offices in other states are noticing a similar spike in the falsified loan application scam and have netted indictments in federal court.
In Cleveland, Ohio, 83 people were indicted in August in "the nation's largest mortgage-fraud investigation," according to The Plain Dealer. Appraisers and loan officers, as well as outsiders paid by them, worked out of two unrelated agencies to generate more than 60 fraudulent loan applications, undercover FBI agents found. A similar investigation was carried out in Greenville, S.C., where mortgage broker Jeffrey Greene pleaded guilty this summer to falsifying more than 100 loan applications for mobile homes.
Jim Sugarman, an attorney with the American Association of Retired People, says his Washington, D.C., office sees a steady flow of fraudulent mortgage applications. "We probably get about 10 people a month coming in with problem loans, and almost all of them have falsified incomes," Sugarman says.
I walked through Underground for the first time in about 20 years when I took…
Seems legit... but I did worry when I visited their website and saw one WalMart…
I don't think the 13 years we spent in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban counts as…
Nad I share your devotion to mathematics...however...it is not only myself that I care about...nor…
Seth Rogen...tool of the CIA...sure Man....