LAS VEGAS—A man who owned and operated numerous now-defunct Nevada investment companies, and two of his former employees, were indicted by the federal grand jury today on mortgage fraud charges, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.
Brett Depue, 36, a former resident of Las Vegas, but currently a resident of Gilbert, Arizona, Brian Barney, 36, of Fairfield, California, and Maria Ornelas, 32, of Las Vegas, are charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud, and criminal forfeiture.
Warrants have been issued for the arrests of Depue and Barney. Ornelas was summoned, and is scheduled for an initial appearance before a United States Magistrate Judge in Las Vegas on Friday, March 26, 2010, at 8:30 a.m.
The Indictment alleges that from about February 1, 2005, to May 31, 2007, in Nevada and elsewhere, the defendants participated in a mortgage fraud conspiracy in which they used “third party disbursements” and “double escrow” methods to fraudulently obtain monies from the financial institutions. A third party disbursement is the issuance of money at the closing of a mortgage loan to a person or entity that is not typically entitled to the money. A double escrow is where two sales of the same property are conducted at the same time. Typically, the property is sold to a middleman, who then sells the property to a straw buyer at a substantially inflated price. The difference between the first sale price and second price is distributed to a conspirator as seller proceeds. The paperwork on the second sale is concealed from the seller, and the paperwork on the first sale is concealed from the lender.
Brett Depue operated a number of Nevada businesses including, ABS Investments Group, LLC, Liberty Group Investments, LLC, and a number of other companies registered with the Nevada Secretary of State. Depue employed Brian Barney, Maria Ornelas, and a number of others who allegedly assisted in the mortgage fraud conspiracy. The defendants recruited home owners in the Las Vegas area and elsewhere who agreed to sell their property at a price substantially above the asking price. The home owners were told that the difference would go to Depue for improvements. The defendants then recruited straw buyers to apply for mortgage loans to purchase the homes using false and fraudulent information concerning the straw buyers’ income, assets, employment, and intent to occupy the homes. In some instances, the defendants had the straw buyers apply for mortgages for more than one house at a time and concealed from the lenders that they were purchasing more than one property.
The Indictment specifically discusses 17 homes in Las Vegas and Henderson which were purchased fraudulently between April 2005 and April 2007 at the direction of and for the benefit of the defendants.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine on each count, and may be required to forfeit up to $8.5 million in properties or proceeds from the crimes.