BOSTON — A mortgage loan officer from Methuen faces six months behind bars for her role in a conspiracy to defraud banks and mortgage companies.
Vanessa Ricci, 41, pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. She was sentenced to six months in prison and three years of supervised release for her role in the scheme.
She was also ordered to pay $963,730 in restitution, according to the Department of Justice.
Ricci and her co-conspirators were accused of participating in a scheme to defraud banks through “short sales” of homes in Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen. A short sale is an alternative to foreclosure in which a mortgage lender sells a property for less than the value of its mortgage debt and releases the borrower from the unpaid balance. The buyer and seller are supposed to be unrelated — but in many instances, homeowners who engaged in this practice remained in their homes and ended up paying less for their mortgages, according to U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.
The Merrimack Valley conspiracy began about August 2007 and continued through June 2010, spanning the height of the nation’s financial crisis in which home values across the country plummeted.
Ricci and her co-defendants, Jasmin Polanco, 37, and Hyacinth Bellerose, 51, both real estate closing attorneys, and Greisy Jimenez, 50, a real estate broker, submitted false and misleading documents to numerous banks to get them to permit short sales, releasing the purported sellers from their unpaid mortgage debts while simultaneously inducing the purported buyers’ banks to provide financing for the deals.
Instead, Lelling said, the purported sellers stayed in their homes with their debt substantially reduced.
Furthermore, while the conspirators led banks to believe the sales were between unrelated parties, the buyers and sellers were frequently related, Lelling said in a press release. The conspirators also submitted phony earnings statements in support of loan applications submitted to banks to obtain new financing for the purported sales.
Jimenez, of Methuen, pleaded guilty to two counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced June 6.
Polanco, residency not disclosed, previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced June 21. In December, the state’s Board of Bar Overseers temporarily suspended her license to practice law.
Bellerose, residency not disclosed, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and was sentenced in March 2017 to time served and one year of supervised release to be served in home detention.