It's pretty hard to get a ten year sentence for a mortgage fraud. Typically, even if the fraud is a big one, the perpetrator will get a sentence of five years or less, as long as they recognize at some point that there is no use in denying their crimes or failing to cooperate in their prosecution (the evidence is almost always overwhelming and obvious in these cases).
In fact, many individuals have been deeply involved in high-dollar mortgage frauds and have gotten little more than a slap on the wrist. Just this past week, Craig Whitehead, a Sarasota, Florida loan officer for Washington Mutual, got a token three month sentence despite defrauding banks out of millions by submitting falsified loan application. Whitehead participated in a massive mortgage fraud conspiracy by assisting conspiracy members in getting at least 19 fraudulent loans totaling $13.2 million for straw buyers with vastly inflated finances, according to reports in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.
How did Whitehead get off so easy? Not only did he plead guilty, he told prosecutors what they wanted to hear, so that at his sentencing hearing, prosecutors asked for a light sentence, on the basis that Whitehead was involved in “relatively few fraudulent loans” and the fact that Whitehead had endured a “grueling cross-examination” by defense attorneys in the trial of some of his co-conspirators.
Those left holding the bag on those fraudulent loans may not share the prosecutor's sentiment that $13.2 million wasn't all that much in the greater scheme of things, or that a person ought to get years chopped off their sentence for that grueling day or two on a witness stand. Regardless, Whitehead obviously understood how the game is played-- cooperate with prosecutors, don't blatantly lie to their face, don't continue to commit crimes to cover up your original crime, and you will usually not be harshly punished for your white collar crime. Whitehead evidently didn't compound his problems after getting caught.
Paige Kinney of Phoenix, Arizona, won't be moving on with her life nearly as soon as Whitehead. She did all the wrong things after she was caught.
Like Whitehead, Kinney pled guilty to fraudulently obtaining loans using falsified applications in an eight-figure mortgage fraud scheme. Unlike Whitehead, Kinney will spend much of her remaining life in prison. Kinney was sentenced to ten years in prison last month for that crime and an additional five years for other criminal steps she took trying to preserve a little bit of her ill-gotten gains after she was caught.
Kinney probably would not have gotten as lucky as Whitehead at her sentencing if she had just taken her medicine after she was originally caught like Whitehead did, but neither would she be sentenced to a prison term sixty times as long as Whitehead.
Kinney and co-conspirator Brett Matheson conceived and executed a $40 million mortgage fraud scheme from 2005 to 2007. Through Matheson's company, Maricopa Property Investment Solutions, Kinney and Matheson conducted get-rich-quick in real estate seminars. The true purpose of the seminars was to recruit straw buyers for their own highly illegal get-rich-quick scheme.
Kinney induced Countrywide and other lenders to make mortgage loans toward the purchases of homes in the names of the straw buyers. To get the loans, she lied on applications and altered and falsified documents to misrepresent the straw buyers’ assets and debts, income, employment status, and sources of down payments. Based on these fraudulent applications and documents, lenders issued loans that exceeded the homes’ sales prices. Once the funds were obtained from the lenders, the extra proceeds, known as “cash back,” were directed to bank accounts that Kinney controlled.
In total, Kinney caused lending institutions to issue over $38.7 million in fraudulent loans. Kinney and Matheson got their hands on over $8.7 million of that. Kinney used her cut of the illicit profits on a lavish lifestyle-- luxury vehicles, jewelry, and upscale homes in Phoenix and San Diego.
But as serious a crime as that was, that would not have gotten her 15 years in the pen. It was her futile efforts to maintain some of her criminally enhanced lifestyle that earned her that stiff sentence.
After her indictment on that fraud, Kinney schemed to shield some of her profits from the law. She created a new identity for herself named JamieLee Lawler and obtained a new Social Security number under that name, but continued to use the name Paige Kinney as a second identity. As JamieLee Lawler, she filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but failed to disclose numerous accounts and at least eight vehicles that were registered in the name of Paige Kinney. She lied to the bankruptcy court about her identity and where she lived.
She tried to keep a large income rolling in as well. Working as a loan officer for a different company, she defrauded her employer out of $174,000 by representing that a business owned by a friend was providing mortgage leads. In reality, the friend's business was a hobby store specializing in board games and collectible cards.
When that fraud ended in 2010 due to the loss of her job, Kinney apparently felt she had to replace that income stream. She has bills to pay-- that year, she financed a Mercedes under false pretenses, for instance. So she staged a burglary at her home. Items that she represented to her homeowner's insurance company as stolen were secretly concealed at other locations. Allstate was duped by the fraud and cut her checks totaling over $136,000.
Kinney pled guilty to all of these crimes-- usually a good way to get a lighter sentence. But that was not enough to save Kinney a stiff sentence in this case. At her sentencing, the judge said that Kinney had engaged in a “breathtakingly aggressive fraud”. He sentenced Kinney to 10 years in prison on the original mortgage fraud scheme and five additional years for her subsequent crimes, to run consecutively. Kinney must also pay $22,000,000 in restitution.