A title company attorney; his wife, an employee of the title company where he worked; and a third individual who co-owned a home building company have been arrested after having been indicted on felony charges in relation to a Houston, Texas area mortgage fraud scheme.
Vincent Wallace Aldridge and Tori Aldridge, both of Fresno, Texas, surrendered themselves to federal authorities as a result of the return of a 19-count indictment arising from an alleged scheme to defraud residential mortgage lenders of more than $3.7 million in connection with home purchases in the Houston area, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno, FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard C. Powers, and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Special Agent in Charge Rodney E. Clarke announced today. Vincent Aldridge, 45, is a former fee attorney of First Southwestern Title Company and attorney with Aldridge and Associates, while Tori Aldridge, 32, is a former employee of the same title company.
Vincent and Tori Aldridge surrendered to special agents of the FBI and IRS-CI at the FBI this morning and both are expected to make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge John R. Froeschner in Houston later today. A third defendant, Gilbert Barry Isgar, 50, of Katy, Texas, the co-owner of Waterford Homes, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge John R. Froeschner earlier this week pursuant to a summons. Isgar was arraigned and his case was set for jury selection and trial before U.S. District Court Judge Sim Lake on May 24, 2010.
The 19-count indictment returned by a Houston grand jury on Thursday, March 25, 2010, accuses Vincent Aldridge, Tori Aldridge, and Isgar of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering.
According to the allegations in the indictment, Vincent and Tori Aldridge and Isgar conspired to devise and execute a scheme during 2004 and 2005 to receive proceeds from real estate transactions based upon materially fraudulent information that was intentionally supplied to at least three lending institutions as the basis for an agreement between the lending institutions and borrowers.
Vincent Aldridge allegedly lured borrowers by representing the scheme as an investment opportunity. For the use of the borrowers’ credit to obtain mortgage loans, they were promised $10,000 after the closing of their respective property. They were also allegedly told that the property would be sold after a year for a profit. Once a borrower agreed to the deal, Vincent Aldridge and Tori Aldridge acting as both an escrow officer and a loan processor and met with the borrower to obtain the necessary personal identifying information to complete the borrower’s lending package.
Prior to the submission of the lending packages to the lending institutions, it is alleged that Vincent and Tori Aldridge modified the lending package to enhance the borrower’s ability to qualify for the requested loan. These enhancements, according to the indictment, included fraudulently overstating the borrower’s income, misrepresenting the borrower’s principal residence as rental property and misrepresenting the purchase property as the principal residence. The mortgage loans totaled approximately $3,700,000. Each property sold in amounts between $344,000 and $365,000 and were funded to First Southwestern Title Company by wire.
As a part of the scheme, the indictment alleges that Isgar, co-owner of Waterford Custom Homes, inflated the sales price of the properties to be purchased by the aforementioned recruited borrowers. As a part of the alleged illicit agreement between the Aldridges and Isgar, the Aldridges were to receive the proceeds of their scheme by including disbursement authorizations for attorney’s fees signed by Isgar to the title company prior to closing. These amounts were listed on the loan closing documents as seller disbursements for attorney fees and were in addition to the attorney’s fees stated on the attorney fee line in the closing documents.
Once the loans were funded to the title company, the Aldridges are accused of causing several checks to be drawn on the account of the title company, each totaling more than $10,000, payable to a bank account controlled by Aldridge & Associates. The checks totaled approximately $442,089 and represented a portion of the illicit proceeds obtained through the mortgage fraud scheme.
The maximum penalty, upon conviction, for the conspiracy to commit wire fraud and each of the 11 wire fraud counts is 20 years in prison as well as substantial fines. The maximum penalty for the conspiracy to launder money and for each of the six money laundering counts is 10 years in prison. A conviction for money laundering carries the most significant fine of $250,000 or twice the amount of the criminally derived property, whichever is greater.
Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Lowery is prosecuting the case.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the FBI and IRS-CI, members of President Obama’s Financial Fraud Task Force. The President established the interagency Financial Fraud Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task fforce 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.