Property flipper convicted

March 11, 2004

Virginia man faces up to 15 years in prison

Inman News

A Potomac Falls, Va., man has been convicted in federal court in a mortgage fraud scheme involving residential property in Westfield, Mass., according to a U.S. Attorney statement.

A jury late last week convicted Angel Serrano Jr., age 42, of conspiracy, wire fraud and making false statements in connection with a property-flipping scheme. Serrano faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $25,000 fine, on each of the three counts of the indictment.

Evidence presented during the seven-day trial proved that between 1996 and 1997, Serrano engaged in a conspiracy to defraud commercial lending institutions by purchasing properties and selling them the same day at inflated prices to unsophisticated low-income buyers. It is alleged that Serrano hid the land-flips from the original sellers and the lending institutions and caused the low-income buyers to submit fraudulent loan applications to the lender.

The indictment charges that Serrano persuaded owners of residential properties to enter into purchase and sales agreements by concealing from the sellers that the properties were to be immediately resold for a higher price. He then persuaded low-income, first-time home buyers to pay inflated prices for these properties. Serrano told these purchasers that they had to go through him to buy the property and concealed the fact that he was purchasing the property the same day for a lower price.

In one instance, Serrano bought a property for $55,000 and sold it the same day for $112,000. He used a variety of fraudulent means to obtain mortgage financing for the buyers, including causing fraudulent mortgage applications to be completed on behalf of the buyers. The applications contained false income, down payment and credit information.

The federal government insured many of the mortgages. Because of that, when the buyers were unable to meet their mortgage payments, the government sustained the loss.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 26.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen L. Goodwin prosecuted the case.

Copyright: Inman News Features

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