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Nov. 21, 2011

Leader of $6.7 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme Sentenced

The leader of a $6.7 million mortgage fraud scheme involving a home in Gates Mills, Ohio, was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

Two others involved in the scheme were also recently sentenced—one to 2 ½ years in prison, the other to eight months house arrest followed by more than two years of supervised release.

Louis Amir, age 40, who last resided in Gates Mills, Ohio, was sentenced to 151 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi and ordered to pay restitution totaling $6,592,637 to four mortgage lenders.

Amir has been in federal custody since October 2010 when an indictment was filed against him. A jury found him guilty this year on all 21 counts against him, including one count of conspiracy, six counts of wire fraud, 13 counts of money laundering, and one count of perjury in a bankruptcy proceeding.

Deirdre Ferguson, age 47, of Beachwood, Ohio, was sentenced to three years' probation with the first eight months to be served on home detention with electronic monitoring. Ferguson was also ordered to make restitution totaling $6,592,637. Ferguson pleaded guilty on August 25, 2011, to one count each of conspiracy and aiding and abetting money laundering.

Daphne Stokes, age 46, who lives in Cleveland, Ohio, was sentenced on November 8th to 30 months' incarceration followed by three years' supervised release. Stokes was also ordered to pay restitution totaling $6,649,937 to four mortgage lenders and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She pleaded guilty on September 1, 2011, to one count each of conspiracy, aiding and abetting money laundering, theft of government funds and misuse of a Social Security number.

The indictment alleged that during December 2006 and January 2007, Louis Amir, aided and abetted by Daphne Stokes and Deirdre Ferguson, fraudulently applied for and obtained six mortgage loans from four lenders totaling approximately $6.7 million to finance the purchase of a residence at 1860 Surrey Place, Gates Mills, Ohio. The indictment alleged that Amir had purchased the residence for approximately $2 million. The indictment further charged that the defendants delayed filing the warranty deed relating to the purchase of the residence to avoid detection of their fraudulent scheme. The indictment further alleged that the defendants caused the mortgage lenders to issue loans far in excess of the true market value of the Gates Mills property. The indictment alleged that, as a result of this fraudulent scheme, the lenders sustained losses totaling about $6.7 million.

The indictment also included 13 money laundering counts pertaining to financial transactions conducted by Amir with the proceeds of the mortgage fraud scheme. These transactions included issuing a $100,000 check to Ferguson, issuing three checks totaling $65,000 to Stokes, and paying off Stokes' mortgage of approximately $87,000. Other money laundering transactions in the indictment included Amir's payments of approximately $103,000 to purchase a Bentley automobile and nearly $164,000 to lease a Rolls Royce, as well as purchasing plasma televisions, speakers, and accessories for about $96,000.

The indictment also charged Amir with committing perjury on November 10, 2008, in connection with a proceeding in his name in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

The indictment also charged Stokes with theft of government funds relating to assistance payments she received totaling $57,300 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Finally, the indictment alleged that Stokes provided a false Social Security number to Huntington National Bank in December 2005 to obtain a $20,800 loan to purchase a Mercedes Benz.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Bridget M. Brennan and John D. Sammon, following a joint investigation by the Cleveland Offices of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General.

Source: United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio

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