HOLY CRAP! There's some serious stuff going on there! Identity theft (no the one pictured above is not from this case), mortgage fraud, flipping a property netting $415,000, monies getting "kicked back", DAMN! This deal sounds like its got a little of everything in it! What a piece of reporting! What an investigation! This Detective Jorge Baluja sounds like he did a bang up job, didn't he! Didn't he? Does this make sense? What's up with inflammatory phrases like "kicked back"? Somehow this sounds less like reporting and more like something that was fed to the paper by the Mortgage Fraud Task Force, almost like a press release. This is what set me off.
Delaila Estefano, 35, and two men were charged last week with first-degree grand theft, organized fraud and using a fake ID.
She was released after posting a $75,000 bond. Estefano, a University of Miami grad with an office in Kendall, has been a lawyer in Florida since 1999.
''We are continuing to do our own investigation into this matter, and are very confident that Ms. Estefano will be exonerated,'' said her attorney, Jason M. Wandner.
Co-defendants John Romney, 27, and Michael Martinez, 30, were still in jail Monday.
The arrests were made by the Miami-Dade Police Department's Mortgage Fraud Task Force, which was created in response to the massive mortgage fraud that plagued South Florida during the housing boom, and put the country's economic future at risk.
The Miami-Dade prosecutor in the case is Bill Kostrzewski.
According to an arrest warrant released Monday, someone in February used the identity of Bernardo Humbero Barreira to obtain a $484,286.06 mortgage from lender Citi Mortgage for a house owned by Romney.
The price tag: $600,000. But Romney had paid just $185,000 for the two-bedroom, one-bathroom house just six days earlier.
Martinez paid a $123,286.06 down payment, according to the warrant by Miami-Dade Detective Jorge Baluja. From Estefano's escrow account, $369,896.88 was paid to Romney, and $135,000 was kicked back to Martinez's bank account.
Something didn't seem right here. Based on the reporting I've seen regarding mortgage fraud arrests, very rarely if ever is there an attorney arrested, in this instance the statement "$135,000 was kicked back" implies that there was complicity on the attorneys part. Have things gotten so bad that an attorney would need to resort to this kind of behavior? Based on the article a UM educated attorney whose been practicing for nearly 10 years, does that fit the profile of a crook? SURELY Detective Baluja must have had some serious dirt on this lawyer to go ahead and make this kind of career ending arrest. Surely the state attorney in charge of this case would have used an abundance of caution before "bringing down" a fellow lawyer correct?
Its here that I decided to look a little closer at this story, my next step is to obtain a copy of the arrest warrant. Lets see whats in there. While were at it, we'll go ahead and take a closer look at the players involved.