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PRESS RELEASE


Going Down With the Ship

Straw Buyers, Equity Stripping and Phony Promises


 
Greenbelt, Maryland - (March 25, 2009) Joy Jackson, age 41, of Fort Washington, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme that falsely promised to help homeowners facing foreclosure keep their homes and repair their damaged credit, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.

“Joy Jackson presided over a ‘money store’ that was in the business of ripping off homeowners and mortgage lenders by submitting fraudulent paperwork to support over $16 million of loans that were never intended to be repaid,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Instead of helping financially distressed homeowners keep their homes as promised, she secretly used their home equity to buy luxuries for herself, including furs, jewelry and over $800,000 on her wedding.”

“These types of crimes create a significant loss of tax revenue, drive buyers into foreclosure, and leave lenders burdened with bad loans,” stated C. Andre' Martin, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge. “IRS-CI is committed to pursuing individuals who create such havoc.”

According to her plea agreement, Jackson was a licensed mortgage broker, but was not licensed to provide credit repair. In May 2005, Jackson and coconspirator Jennifer McCall incorporated Metropolitan Money Store, located in Lanham, Maryland, which offered foreclosure consultation and credit services to financially distressed homeowners. Also at that time, Jackson and other coconspirators incorporated Fordham & Fordham Investment Group, Ltd. (F&F) based in Lanham and Greenbelt, Maryland to assist Metropolitan Money Store in its foreclosure consulting and credit servicing business.

From September 2004 to June 2007, Jackson, McCall and others conspired to fraudulently promise to help homeowners, who had substantial equity in their homes but were facing foreclosure because of their inability to make monthly mortgage payments, avoid foreclosure and repair their damaged credit. The homeowners were directed to allow title to their homes to be put in the names of third party purchasers (the straw buyers) for a year, during which time Metropolitan Money Store promised to improve the homeowners’ credit ratings, help them obtain more favorable mortgages, and eventually return title to their homes to them. The homeowners were told that the equity withdrawn from the properties would be used to pay the mortgage and expenses on their homes and to repair their credit. The straw buyers were paid up to $10,000 to participate in the scheme and allow the properties to be put in their names. Jackson also served as a straw buyer on several properties in Maryland.

Using the homeowners’ properties, the conspirators applied for mortgages to extract the maximum available equity from the homes, and prepared and submitted fraudulent loan applications to mortgage lenders to obtain inflated loans on the target properties in the straw buyers’ names. At settlements, the conspirators imposed numerous fees and required “seller contributions” which were far in excess of industry standards; they imposed fees for services which were not performed, disclosed or explained to the homeowners; and they transferred the sale proceeds out of the escrow accounts into the conspirators’ business and personal bank accounts and converted a substantial portion of those funds to their personal use.

In order to carry out the fraud scheme, Jackson and others obtained large cashier’s checks in the names of straw buyers and Metropolitan Money Store employees in order to conceal transactions from the lenders. Jackson misappropriated the license and bond numbers of other brokerage and credit repair companies and used them to broker loans and fraudulently improve homeowners’ credit scores by adding fictitious lines of credit to their credit histories.

During the conspiracy, Jackson and McCall provided a co-conspirator acting as a closing agent with more than $100,000 in kickback payments to process real estate closings quickly. Moreover, whenever Jackson requested, the closing agent permitted Metropolitan Money Store employees to close loans without him or any other closing agent being present. She directed others to prepare fraudulent settlement documents that contained false information. Jackson also paid bank employees to provide false income balances for straw buyers to lenders; add straw buyers and others onto accounts for lender verification purposes; transfer money into accounts to show a certain amount of money was in a bank account and thereafter return those funds to the original account; and shift money between Metropolitan Money Store and F&F accounts to facilitate loans in straw buyer’s names.

Finally, Jackson directed others to transfer the equity proceeds of homeowners into the general checking accounts of Metropolitan Money Store and F&F, as well as Jackson’s personal accounts. Jackson withdrew these funds and paid for goods and services for herself, including art, cars, clothing, credit card bills, homes, fur coats, furniture, airline trips, gambling expenses, jewelry, limousine services, student tuition and a luxury wedding for herself and a conspirator.

As a result of this scheme, the total loss attributable to Jackson, including the estimated losses to the mortgage lenders, is $16,880,884.86. Jackson faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for the conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus scheduled sentencing for November 16, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. As part of her plea, Jackson has agreed to pay restitution for the full amount of the victims’ losses, and forfeit three residential properties in Oxon Hill, Capitol Heights and Laurel, Maryland, and three vehicles.

Jackson is the seventh defendant to plead guilty in the Metropolitan Money Store mortgage fraud scheme. Jennifer McCall, age 47, of Ft. Washington, Maryland, a chief executive officer of Metropolitan Money Store and owner of JC and JC Investments LLC; Katisha Fordham, age 35, of Washington, D.C., a loan processor at the Metropolitan Money Store; Richard Allison, age 37, of Camp Springs, Maryland, an attorney and employee of the U.S. Census Bureau; Clifford McCall, age 47, of Lanham, Maryland, president of Burroughs & Smythe Financial Services, Inc., based in Lanham and a director of the Fordham & Fordham Investment Group, Ltd., a foreclosure consulting and credit servicing business based in Lanham and Greenbelt, Maryland; Carlisha Dixon, age 31, of Hyattsville, Maryland, vice president and a director of Burroughs & Smythe Financial Services, Inc.; and Chandra Jones, age 31, of Lanham, Maryland, the daughter of co-defendants Jennifer and Clifford McCall, each pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and are facing a maximum sentencing of 30 years in prison. Three defendants remain scheduled for trial on July 7, 2009.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s Division of Financial Regulation Investigative Unit for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys James A. Crowell IV and Christen Sproule, who are prosecuting the case.



SOURCE: United States Department of Justice -- District of Maryland

 
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