Michelle Austin-Wilks, 38, of Parkland, Florida, who operated a title company in Broward County, was charged with four counts of wire fraud in connection with her participation in a mortgage fraud scheme, Federal officials announced yesterday.
The alleged crimes occurred when Austin-Wilks was President and Director of Direct Title & Escrow Services, Inc., in Oakland Park, Florida. Austin-Wilks and others allegedly engaged in a scheme to enrich themselves by fraudulently buying and selling residential real estate property in Broward County through straw buyers. These straw buyers obtained high value mortgages based on fraudulent mortgage loan applications and closing statements.
According to the allegations, after the lenders approved the loans based on the false loan applications, Austin-Wilks prepared false HUD-1 Settlement Statements that, among other things, falsely represented to the lenders falsely inflated purchase prices and fictional down payments. A separate version of the settlement statement was submitted to the seller, showing the true sale price.
Lenders wired a total of approximately $3 million in mortgage loan proceeds into Direct Title & Escrow’s bank account in transactions allegedly involved in the scheme. Of that money, Austin-Wilks allegedly diverted $68,562 and $382,000, respectively, to a mortgage broker and a straw buyer for their assistance in the mortgage fraud scheme. The mortgage broker, Jinnie Mathurin, has pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and was sentenced on March 7, 2012 to one year and one day of imprisonment, three years supervised release and ordered to pay $1.17 million in restitution by U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks. The straw buyer, Guhier Florvilus, also pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 17, 2012 .