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$25 Million Inside Job

Associated Capital employees plead guilty

October 26, 2006

By PATRICK CROWLEY


photo of Patrick Crowley
Mortgage loan officer Elizabeth Hessel and Angela Parenza, her office manager, "would do anything" to close a loan.

Even, according to federal prosecutors in Kansas, lie, create phony loan documents, provide illegal down payments and closing costs to buyers and steal as part of a $25 million bank fraud scheme.

Hessel, 46, and Parenza, 39, have pleaded guilty to bank fraud and money laundering for their part in the $25 million fraud involving builder and mortgage broker F. Jeffrey Miller.

Miller, who is awaiting trial, operated home building companies along with Associated Capital, a subprime mortgage brokerage that employed Hessel and Parenza.

"At Miller's direction, Hessel and Parenza would do anything required to complete a loan closing," U.S. District Attorney for the District of Kansas Eric Melgren said in a statement, "including but not limited to forging potential buyers' signatures on loan documents and providing home purchasers with down payment and closing costs."

Miller's companies -- Miller Enterprises and Star Land Development -- built and developed homes in the Kansas City area. He targeted buyers with credit problems or little or no money for a down payment and then steer them to Associated Capital.

Parenza and Hessel worked on preparing buyers' loan applications to federally insured lenders. But they also broke the law in helping buyers get their loans.

"The criminal conspiracy in which these two defendants took part was designed to lure low income home buyers with the promise of easy credit," Melgren said. "The conspirators profited by manipulating appraisals and submitted false and fraudulent loan applications."

Working with Miller Hessel and Parenza "falsified loan documents including tax returns, employment verifications and rental agreements to obtain loans for buyers that they were not qualified to receive."

They also provided down payments and closings costs without letting the lenders know they did so and sold houses in volume to investors, also withholding that information from lenders.

Melgren said another part of the scheme involved the pair manipulating buyers into moving into Miller-built houses in advance of the loan closing.

"When prices increased at closing," he said, "the buyers were under pressure to accept the terms for face conviction."

Buyers also found out before or during a closing that the sales price of the house had increased. Hessel and Parenza then prepared second mortgage to be prepared for the difference in the prices "at an illegal interest rate," Melgren said.

Parenza and Hessel face up to five years in prison and fines of $250,000.


Patrick Crowley is a feature journalist and blogger for MortgageDaily.com. He is also a reporter, blogger and columnist for The Cincinnati Enquirer.
e-mail Patrick at: [email protected]

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