It sounded like an investment that couldn’t lose.
Take a mortgage loan to buy a piece of property, but never actually put any money up because the property would be quickly sold or rented. In fact, investors would be paid $1,500 for each property they allowed to be purchased in their name and than half the profits when the property sold.
Except the deal turned out to be an alleged scam and the two Ameriquest employees who were involved are now headed to jail for running what a federal prosecutor in Missouri said was a $4 million fraud.
Avonda Lynn Nicodemus, 33, and Chauncey Joseph Calvert, 34, both of Kansas City, have pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges and face up to 15 years in prison and fines of $500,000, Todd Graves, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced in a statement.
Both were account executives in the Gladstone, MO., office of California-based Ameriquest. They were accused of “obtaining money from the mortgage lender by means of fraudulent loan applications and inflated appraisals between May and December of 1999,” Graves said in the statement.
A total of 66 phony loans totaling about $4 million were processed by Nicodemus and Calvert, Graves said.
Ameriquest has not commented on the charges.
Graves said the pair has admitted they convinced investors to borrow money with a promise that buyers or renters for the property would be found shortly.
“The victims were led to believe that they would pay no money for the properties and have no expenses or obligations,” Graves said, “but that they would be paid fees or a percentage of the profit.”
Investors were told they would be paid $1,500 for each property and when the property was sold they would get half the proceeds.
But the Ameriquest employees had the proceeds of the loans disbursed to coconspirators or companies under the control of the coconspirators, according to government. They did so by representing that the phony companies held the first mortgage liens on the properties.
“Nicodemus and Calvert benefited from this because they obtained fees, bonuses, commissions, kickbacks and other benefits,” Graves said.
Nicodemus admitted illegally transferring $43,550 of the loan proceeds and Calvert confessed to $29,298, Graves said.
To get the loans approved by Ameriquest, they submitted “false and fraudulent loan applications signed by victims, inflated appraisals and other documentation and representations,” he said.
The fake documents and information included income and asset statements, credit reports, settlement statements, payoff letters, W-2 forms, sales contracts and other mortgage forms.
Ameriquest was also stung by employee fraud in March when employees reportedly used customer information to secure mortgage loans for unqualified buyers. Employees were fired as a result of the fraud, which involved using a 401(k) statement from a qualified Ameriquest customer on the loans of two unqualified buyers.