Monday, February 28, 2011

Plantation cops federal mortgage fraud trial starts today.

In a bit of a rush today, so it's going to be short.  Some of you may remember the $16mm federal mortgage fraud indictment from last July that we discussed at length on our blog which involved several Plantation police officers and an FBI agent getting charged, their federal trial begins today and is expected to last three weeks.  This one is going to be interesting.

More tomorrow...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Michelle Spence- Jones in the news again and why the hell does Veldora Arthur still have her job?


Great question, right?  Francisco Alvarado of the Miami New Times reports on another major flaw in the states bribery case against former City of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones in today's edition of Riptide.  Apparently Armando Codina, the states key witness against Spence-Jones is alleging that the assistant state attorney prosecuting Spence-Jones was somewhat less than honest about the facts of the case during his deposition which yielded the most injurious testimony against the former commissioner.  From the New Times article...
In a deposition taken this past February 16, Codina -- a former business partner of Jeb Bush -- implies that Miami-Dade State Attorney Richard Scruggs misled him into believing Spence-Jones stole $12,500 he had donated for an event honoring former County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler.
This isn't the first time this has happened during the states quest to put Spence-Jones behind bars, just a few months ago we learned that Barbara Carey-Shuler, another key witness in a separate case against Spence-Jones suddenly remembered during a deposition that the allegations she made about Spence-Jones forging a letter authorizing the release of $50,000 to her company were untrue and in fact the letter was genuine.  Once again, from the New Times article...
"Whose handwriting is that?" Raben asked Carey-Shuler. "It's mine," she replied.

When Raben quizzed her if the final version -- the one prosecutors alleged was a forgery -- was "genuine," Carey-Shuler said: "That's correct."
So now what?  The testimony that was the cornerstone of both of the states cases against Spence-Jones just went up in smoke as both the key witnesses claimed that they were lied to   mislead by the prosecutors who built the cases against Spence-Jones using their coerced testimony.

Let's not forget though that the minute the charges were announced against Spence-Jones there was a press conference followed by Governor Charlie Crist immediately suspending her from her position as commissioner.  Keep in mind that between the two cases Spence-Jones was accused of stealing roughly sixty to seventy five thousand dollars through her alleged nefarious activities.

Now, fast forward a few months to the Veldora Arthur federal mortgage fraud indictment, she's charged with participating in a scheme to defraud banks out of nearly ELEVEN MILLION DOLLARS and she's still got her job at the city collecting a hefty $300,000 per year?!  Not to mention that there was no press conference, no press release, nothing other than news of the indictment on some local blogs!  

What gives here folks?  On one hand we have a popular commissioner who was elected to her position by a landslide victory who immediately loses her job after being accused of stealing approximately $75,000 and on the other hand we have another city employee who's federally indicted for a massive eleven million dollar fraud and she's still got her job?  Even worse, a job where she's responsible for handling financial matters for the City?  

Why does Veldora Arthur still have her job?  Why hasn't she been immediately suspended without pay as Spence-Jones was?  Why the double standard?  The best the City of Miami Fire Department could do when asked why she wasn't suspended was this lame statement from their spokesman Ignatius Carroll...
"this has nothing to do with her role as fire chief...our guys don't carry guns"
She may not carry a gun, she carries the fire departments checkbook!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

City of Miami Assistant Fire Chief Veldora Arthur wants to help you fix your credit!


Don't even get me started, I can't begin to describe how pissed off I am right now over this nonsense.  Look where where we're at right now...
  • Record unemployment
  • Record foreclosures
  • Record Bankruptcies
  • Honest hardworking government employees getting their pay and benefit packages cut
  • Cities and municipalities teetering on the verge of bankruptcy
I don't need to restate the obvious about the economic state our country is in right now, to add insult to injury we're living in a city that's being described as one of the most corrupt cities on the country.  Fantastic.

In the middle of all this mayhem we have none other than Veldora Arthur, the City of Miami's first black female assistant fire chief who between her base salary and benefits gets paid close to three hundred thousand dollars a year by the City of Miami tax payers.  Now, let's put that into perspective, let's assume that her position as the Assistant Fire Chief requires her to be at work say from nine to five and let's just say for the sake of argument that she puts in a forty hour work week, that works out to about $144 per hour assuming that she works 52 weeks a year and takes no vacations.  Let's disregard her benefits and figure out her hourly rate based on her base salary, $184,336.44,  again assuming she takes no vacations and works a full 52 weeks per year, that comes out to roughly $88 per hour.  I'm sure City of Miami firefighters who actually put out fires don't make that kind of money!  Now, how many of you guys make that much money?!  Not many of us I guess, at the very least, I DON'T!  

I ran those numbers over the last couple of days and started to get all worked up, things got even worse when we got this comment on our blog on Tuesday...

Veldora Arthur comes in at 10:00 and leaves at 4:00p.m. She doesn't come in to work, but does not take any time off the books. Works, better yet, shows up to work for 20 hours a week. 
WHAT THE FUCK!  Let's forget about the federal mortgage fraud indictment she was named in for a moment and simply consider the audacity of this statement, this woman makes nearly $300,000 per year and comes in to work for a few hours a day?  What gives!  I started looking around then stumbled on to this website, as always click on the image to enlarge...

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!  Take a closer look...

Here's the text of that quote...
The credit workshop was very informative.  The real life scenarios were exceptional and very realistic.  I related to some of the scenarios and such was able to come up with realistic solutions. The information on short sales and foreclosures was invaluable and right on target.  I will be referring my clients and my friends to "" for credit restoration.
-Veldora Arthur
HUH?!  "I related to some of the scenarios...The information on short sales and foreclosures was invaluable and right on target."  No kidding!  The feds certainly seem to think so!  Could this be for real?!  

Let's disregard all the bullshit in this quote and cut right to the "I will be referring my clients" part.  Clients?  WHAT CLIENTS?  Let me see, as an employee of the City of Miami fire department, who the hell are your clients?  The guy whose house just burnt down?  Or maybe the little kid who got her cat stuck up in a tree?  Perhaps the guy who called 911 after getting his penis caught in a bottle?  (not me I swear)  Why would any of these people need "credit restoration"??   The question that we're left to ponder is WHO THE HELL ARE THESE CLIENTS SHE'S REFERRING TO?!  A quick trip to the Florida division of corporations website helped answer that question, here's what we found...

veldora arthur articles of incorporation for capitol investment enterprise, llc                                                            

Here we have the articles of incorporation for a company owned by Ms. Arthur named Capitol Investment Enterprise, LLC.  Interesting, next we find this...

veldora arthur articles of incorporation for hidden bay properties, llc                                                            

Nice, here we have the articles of incorporation for a second company owned by Ms. Arthur, Hidden Bay Properties, LLC, a company that coincidentally is named after the condominium where all the units involved in the federal mortgage fraud indictment were located.  Another important detail to note is that the company is co owned by none other than Neil Fagan, the man who is accused of orchestrating the mortgage fraud scheme that they were both federally indicted for.  So much for her lawyers "she didn't know what was going on" explanation, right?

Last but not least we have this third corporation owned by Ms. Arthur...

veldora arthur articles of incorporation for financial solutions team, llc                                                            

No kidding, Ms. Arthur also owns a company called Financial Solutions Team, LLC.  Now that's nice isn't it?  You think the clients she was referring to in her testimonial for the credit repair company were customers from Financial Solutions Team, LLC?  Now comes the next question, when did Ms. Arthur find time during her work day to service these clients?  After all, her position at the Fire Department didn't call for odd hours, from what we understand she had a nine to five desk job so where did she find the time to attend to this or any other business let alone it's clients?

If Ms. Arthur's glowing review of the company that lists among it's products a book called "It's OK not to pay" wasn't bad enough, now we're left to consider the fact that she was running not one but at least three other businesses while on city time.  That's where I draw the line, we're all wallowing through the mud of this economic downturn and this woman is running three different businesses while stealing collecting $300,000 per year from struggling tax payers?  Not to mention whatever she garnered from her foray into mortgage and real estate fraud and then having the gaul to want to help her "clients" repair their credit?!  WTF!

Our justice system operates on the presumption of innocence, so put the federal fraud indictment aside for the moment, Ms. Arthur needs to be investigated and held accountable for what shes been doing on City time while being paid by the tax payers.  Based on what little research I've done and the comments that we've had on our blog over the last few days, it certainly sounds like she's got some explaining to do.   

In the mean time, Mayor Regalado and City Manager Tony Crapp, for christ's sake, do the right thing and suspend this woman immediately!  As one of our readers, mentioned yesterday, it's what you're required to do as part of your administrative policy!

More tomorrow...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Taking a closer look a City of Miami Assistant Fire Chief Veldora Arthur's alleged mortgage fraud misdeeds.


It looks like the Miami Herald finally got around to reporting on City of Miami Assistant Fire Chief Veldora Arthur's federal mortgage fraud indictment.  From the Herald article...
The indictment says Arthur received a payoff yet had no intention of living on the properties, which eventually went into foreclosure.
Ok, textbook definition of a "Straw Buyer".
Arthur’s attorneys dispute the charges, saying their client actually went to the feds not long after the 2006 purchases took place, and after a friend noticed the paperwork said she was making $123,000 a month, not a year.
Bieber called his client “a victim” who “unfortunately associated herself with people who were committing fraud.”
Victim?  Really?  She had no idea what was going on?
Bieber said that even though Arthur was able to purchase the properties with no money down — a move he said was fairly common during the boom years of the real estate market — she received a payment after the properties closed
Hold up, her attorney is admitting that she received payment once the properties closed?  That in of itself isn't proof that somethings wrong?  Isn't the seller supposed to get paid once the property sells rather than the buyer?
Bieber said Arthur was introduced to Fagan through a friend, and was simply looking to make an investment. The plan was to flip the properties for a profit, but, Bieber said, there was no profit because the properties went into foreclosure.
“She believed this was an honest investment during the real estate boom,” said Bieber.
Wait a minute, the attorney is now claiming that Ms Arthur was "was simply looking to make an investment", just a few moments ago he clearly stated that his client was able "to purchase the properties with no money down" and "received a payment after the properties closed".  Once again, isn't this the textbook definition of a "Straw Buyer"?

After examining the indictment a little closer, we've found that all the homes that were used in this mortgage fraud scheme were in the same building located at 3370 NE 190th street in Aventura.  

From the looks of it, the people who orchestrated this scheme found a sweet spot in this condo, units that would appraise high but for one reason or another were having trouble selling on the legitimate real estate market, no different than the sweet spot that John Romney and crew found in the West Grove where they were able to bust out several homes raking in millions of dollars in profits.

Now, let's take apart this mess and see what we can find.  We'll begin with the deeds for the two condos that Veldora purchased, first unit 3111...

veldora arthur warranty deed for 3370 NE 190th street unit 3111 aventura flo 33180                                                            

From the documentary stamps we figure the purchase price of this property to be $1,950,000.  That's seems like a ton of money for a 2,720 sqft condo!  Regardless, let's take a look at the warranty deed for unit 3711 in the same building...

veldora arthur warranty deed for 3370 NE 190th street unit 3711 aventura flo 33180                                                            

DAMN!  Based on the doc stamps that unit was purchased for a cool two million dollars, same unit as 3111 just six floors higher.

Now, let's look at the mortgages for Unit 3111 begining with the first mortgage for $1,462,500...

veldora arthur first mortgage for 3370 NE 190th street unit 3111 aventura flo 33180                                                            

And now the second mortgage for $349,050 on the same property...

veldora arthur second mortgage for 3370 NE 190th street unit 3111 aventura flo 33180                                                            

Now, let's move on to the second condo, unit 3711.  Here's the first mortgage for $1,365,000...

veldora arthur first mortgage for 3370 NE 190th street unit 3711 aventura flo 33180                                                            

And the second mortgage for $292,500 on the same unit...

veldora arthur second mortgage for 3370 NE 190th street unit 3711 aventura flo 33180                                                            

So far so good, let's summarize...
  • Unit 3711 purchased on February 7, 2007 for $2,000,000 financed by two mortgages totaling $1,657,500
  • Unit 3111 purchased on March 6, 2006 for $1,950,000 financed by two mortgages totaling $1,811,550.
Based on the purchases prices we were able to deduce that means there was a shortage of $480,950 between the two transactions, Ms. Arthur's attorney stated that she put no money down, so who did then?  To further complicate matters, Ms. Arthur turns around a refinances unit 3711 just five months later for a cool $1,680,000...

veldora arthur third mortgage for 3370 NE 190th street unit 3711 aventura flo 33180                                                            

Can you imagine the kind of money the mortgage brokers and title companies must have made off of these transactions?!  We're talking over FIVE MILLION DOLLARS worth of loans not to mention the recording and closing costs!  Yet even after signing what looks like hundreds of pages of documents for these purchases and the subsequent mortgages Ms. Arthur's attorney still claims that...
“She believed this was an honest investment during the real estate boom,”
Let's give her the benefit of the doubt, after all our justice system is based on a presumption of innocence for those who've been charged with a crime.  I'm baffled at the thought that Ms. Arthur, someone whose job at the fire department calls for managing payrolls and procurements, someone that is supposed to have a modicum of financial sense could have thought that this was a good or even honest investment?  The mortgage payments alone for these two properties must have been in the tens of thousands, after all she was borrowing nearly four million dollars at 7 to 8% interest!!  That hardly sound like something someone that has any financial sense would agree to especially when interest rates were as low as they were during the peak of the housing bubble.  Let's not forget qualifying for the mortgages themselves, how the hell did a City of Miami firefighter making $180k per year qualify for four different mortgages for close to four million with within one month of each other?

Something is definitely haywire with the statements that Ms. Arthur's attorneys made to the media today but like I said, she's innocent till proven guilty and should be treated as such.  Let's assume that she had no part in falsifying the documents used to obtain these mortgages, let's even assume that she wasn't really a straw buyer and didn't even get cash back after these transactions closed.  Let's say all of those defenses are legitimate, there is one aspect of these transactions that she's not going to be able to explain away though, has anyone figured it out?  

We'll discuss tomorrow, in the mean time think about this question, what do Veldora Arthur, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff and the Plantation cops that were indicted for mortgage fraud all have in common?

Monday, February 21, 2011

City of Miami Assistant Fire Chief Veldora Arthur federally indicted for mortage fraud.

Here's the indictment...

veldora arthur indictment                                                            

Consider for a moment who Ms. Arthur is within the City of Miami Fire Department, oddly enough her responsibility is to oversee the financial matters of the Fire Department including payroll and procurement.  Who exactly do we have behind the controls at the City of Miami?  Ms. Arthur makes $184,336.44 as an assistant fire chief, in this day and age, is that not enough to get by on?

What's even more disturbing is the fact that she was arrested ten days ago on an indictment from late 2010, yet we haven't even heard a peep out of the local media.  What happened to the perp walk or the press release?  Ms. Arthur and crew were charged with a nearly $11,000,000 mortgage fraud scam and the media is mute?  What gives here folks?

Ms. Arthur is out on $125,000 bond, we'll have a full break down of the indictment coming on Wednesday, stay tuned.

President's day YO!


Confusing holiday as there wasn't a single president born on February 21.  Washington was born on February 22nd and Lincoln on the 12th, screw it though, a day off nonetheless.

We got a bombshell for tomorrow, we're going to learn about a high ranking City of Miami official that was federally indicted for mortgage fraud yet somehow was never mentioned anywhere in the local media.

Friday, February 18, 2011

So why would a prosecutor need to lie to a judge about the facts of his case?


Good question right? Over the last few days we've proven that prosecutor Bill Kostrzewski did indeed lie to Judge Mary Barzee about the facts of the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case. The question that begs to be asked though is WHY? Was what really happened not enough to support the states case? Was it simply a matter of the prosecutor not knowing what happened? Maybe he was nervous and got a simple case of stage fright before the judge and screwed up the facts? Perhaps he knew that his case was total bullshit and he needed to make the facts seem as injurious as possible before the judge that day to try to win the motion before the court? Or is this prosecutor simply an incompetent boob?

I'll give "veteran economic crimes prosecutor" Bill Kostrzewski the benefit of the doubt and exclude the possibility that he's an incompetent boob. I'll go one step further and exclude the possibility that he got flustered before the judge and mixed up facts as he was referring to and reading from some papers he had before him when he gave this shameful performance before the judge. The hearing at which the prosecutors testimony took place was for a fourth motion to compel the prosecutor to turn over evidence to the defense, a hearing which the prosecutor had no defense for as the Judge had ordered the state on several other instances to turn over the evidence that they had in their possession, evidence by the way that to this day nearly two and a half years later still hasn't been turned over. Here's my theory, at this stage of the game, the good prosecutor knew that his "headline" case was falling apart and as I mentioned, he had no excuse as to why he hadn't turned over the evidence that was requested. I'm going to suggest that he prepared this testimony in order to make the defendant at this hearing seem as guilty as possible to divert attention away from the fact that he still hadn't complied with the courts orders to turn over the evidence to the defense. Who cares about the truth right? It's just another example of the prosecutor's win at all costs pattern of behavior, truth be damned.

Even more disturbing than the prosecutor intentionally lying about the facts that made up the foundation of the Barrera mortgage fraud prosecution is the fact that he intentionally omitted the key player in the fraud from his testimony before the judge, John Romney, the guy that masterminded and ultimately walked away with the proceeds of the fraud. How can the prosecutor tell the judge what happened and conveniently forget to mention the guy that walked away with nearly $400,000 from this fraud? I'm mean really, here's the prosecutor crucifying the closing agent who was a victim of Mr. Romney's fraudulent scheme before the judge and he forgets to mention the guy who put the whole deal together? Interesting to say the least.

Now, for those of you following our blog, did anyone notice that I didn't mention the name of the wife beating mortgage fraudster that we discussed last week? That wife beating mortgage fraudster was none other than John Arthur Romney, the man behind the Barrera mortgage fraud scheme who ultimately ended up going to prison after the case was taken away from prosecutor Kostrzewski and reassigned to a new prosecutor.

Is it all beginning to make sense now? Guy beats his wife while he's out on bond and doesn't get his bail revoked, charges mysteriously go away less than a month later, prosecutor goes before the judge explaining what the mortgage fraud case was about yet somehow forgets to make any mention of the man who orchestrated the whole scheme, etc...

Somethings really fishy here folks and believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Breaking down just one minute and twenty nine seconds of a prosecutor bullshitting a judge.

Did you guys pick up on the huge discrepancies and omissions from prosecutor Bill Kostrzewski's explanation of the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case to Judge Mary Barzee that we discussed yesterday?  Today we'll break down that shameful performance by the prosecutor so we can see just how fucked his testimony to the court was, his words will be in italics while what really happened will appear just below it.  Here we go...
Your honor, on February the nineteenth a closing closed at Ms. Estefano's office.
No dispute there, the paperwork tells the story.
The funds were dispersed that day or the next day.
Uh, really Mr. Kostrzewski?  Take a look at the arrest affidavit that you Detective Baluja wrote and get back to us.  The arrest affidavit clearly states that the funds for this closing were not dispursed until February 22, 2008, three days after the closing occured.
However, the cash to close, the one hundred twenty three thousand and change...the cash to closing, the money that the buyer had to put up, you know, not the down payment but the cash to close that he had to put through the bank was approximately one hundred and twenty three thousand dollars, that was never given.
No kidding?  The cash to close which according to the "veteran economic crimes prosecutor" is not the down payment was never given.  Then what's this check all about?

You remember that check don't you or don't you recognize it?  This would be the copy that you decided not to include as part of your arrest affidavit, remember?  This is the one with your star witnesses handwriting on it, the same witness that later acknowledged that she had processed this check negating the coerced testimony she gave when she was under the threat of being arrested.  Glad we cleared that up.
Funds were dispersed without a down payment. 
Really?  Your cooperating witness Michael Martinez stated that he delivered this check to the closing agents office the same day he obtained it from the bank.  Here's an excerpt from his deposition in case you need to refresh your recollection.

If we are to believe the states cooperating witnesses testimony then the check was delivered on February 21, 2008 which is the same day the check was issued.  In case that date is a problem, let's get a close up of the check to clear up an confusion...

Not exactly the clearest image, without a doubt though the date is clear, February 21, 2008.  According to the arrest affidavit the funds for the closing were not disbursed until February 22, 2008 which is one full day after the "cash to close" was delivered to the closing agent.  Are we crystal clear now?  Good.  Let's move on to the next bit...
Seven days later Mr. Martinez was approached by Mr. Romney, no, Mr. Fonte, the guy that we just arrested your honor, said “hey look, you wanna make ten grand? We need this money, ”  He goes to the, he goes to the bank with his mother and Mr. Fonte, they get this check,
Uh, what?  Forget about the stuttering and the mumbling for a moment and let's think about what the prosecutor is telling the judge.  According to what the prosecutor is saying, funds were disbursed on the 19th or 20th of February 2008 and then seven days later the codefedants that were charged obtained a cashiers check that represented the "cash to close" for the transaction, the same cash to close which the prosecutor just told the judge had "had never been given".  Confused yet?  Let's make it worse, if you follow what the prosecutor is telling the judge, that the cashier check that represented the "cash to close" was obtained seven days after the proceeds of this nefarious scheme were disbursed, logic would dictate that the check would have either been issued on February 27 or February 28, 2008.  Let's take another look at the date the check was issued on...

Huh?  How does any of that make sense?  The only way the codefendants could have obtained this check seven days after the money from the sale of the home was disbursed was if they walked into the Bank of America time machine window and went back almost a full week in time in order to obtain a fucking check dated FEBRUARY 21, 2008!  WTF?  Let's keep moving, again from the prosecutor's testimony before the judge...

they go and they go to Ms. Estefano, Ms. Estefano’s office and Mr. Fonte introduces him to Ms. Estefano, ah according to the statement, “is it a problem, I’m the remitter on this check, I’m not the buyer.”
Now does that sound right to you?  Does that sound like something Mr. Martinez would say or does it sound like a "manufactured statement" created by the prosecutor himself to suit the allegations he's made against the defendants?
She says “that’s not a problem”, takes it and that’s basically it.
Really?  Once again, that sounds like a crock of shit, especially coming from a witness who couldn't identify the person who he claimed to have this conversation with, in his own words...

No kidding?

It was Mr. Martinez's inability to identify the attorney who he supposedly had this conversation with that led up to the infamous "one picture photo line up"...

So what are we left with after listening to a minute and a half of Mr. Kostrzewski mumbling in front of Judge Barzee?  We've proven today that were left with nothing but a minute and a half of a prosecutor intentionally misrepresenting the facts of a case to a judge, after a cursory review of the facts (facts provided by the state no less) we've proven that everything he's told the judge is bullshit.  Why would a prosecutor do such a thing?  We'll try to find some sort of explanation for this mess tomorrow.

BTW, did anyone notice that the prosecutor made no mention (except by mistake) of the man who masterminded this scheme, convicted mortgage fraudster John Romney?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Let's listen to a prosecutor intentionally misrepresent the facts of a case to a judge.

We left off on Monday discussing how Miami Dade County Judge Lando was about to reprimand lawyers from foreclosure mill Ben-Ezra & Katz for lying to the court.  Essentially the fine lawyers from Ben-Ezra & Katz had made misleading statements to the court regarding documents from a home they were foreclosing on, at first they said the original documents were lost, but then months after the attorneys stated that they were lost they magically reappeared, the only problem was that the documents they filed actually belonged to another home and had nothing to do with the home that was the subject of their foreclosure action.  We've yet to see how the Judge Lando is going to deal with the attorneys responsible for perpetrating this fraud on the court, but considering the Judge's tone in the article, it's not going to be good.

Regardless though, those guys are foreclosure hacks that are just pushing paperwork through the system, it's understandable at the rate they're going through those foreclosures and the pressure the banks are putting on them to get final judgments, a screw up of this magnitude was inevitable.  But what if the attorney that's perpetrating a fraud on the court isn't a foreclosure hack or a green criminal defense attorney?  What if the attorney that's bullshitting the court is a veteran economic crimes prosecutor with a keen interest in mortgage fraud?  I wonder what the punishment would be for a prosecutor who intentionally misrepresented the facts of a case to the court?  

Before we can speculate on how the court would deal with such a prosecutor, we first need examine the evidence of such behavior.  Let's revisit arrest affidavit for the Bernardo Barrera mortgage fraud case...

Let's break that down...
  • 2/13/08 Purchase of the subject home by Mr. Romney's company.
  • 2/19/08 Sale of property by Mr. Romney to the man who posed as Bernardo Barrera. The state alleges that a HUD-1 closing statement was faxed to the lender indicating that the earnest money was already paid.
  • 2/20/08 Citi mortgage wire transferred loan proceeds to attorneys trust account.
  • 2/21/08 Michael Martinez purchases a cashiers check for $123,530.56 made payable to attorneys trust account.
  • 2/22/08 Proceeds from the closing were disbursed to seller (Romney).
  • 2/27/08 Cashiers check purchased by Martinez is deposited into the attorneys escrow account.
Easy to understand right?  Now, just to be perfectly clear here, through the testimony given to the state attorneys office and the detective who put this case together, we know that the cashiers check that was purchased on 2/21/08 was delivered to the closing agents office the very same day that it was purchased, from Mr. Martinez's depo...

Ok, so just to recap let's go through it again:
  • 2/13/08 Convicted mortgage fraudster John Romney purchases home that at the center of the Barrera mortgage fraud case.
  • 2/19/08 Closing for sale of home by John Romney to Bernardo Barrera.
  • 2/20/08 Citi mortgage wires proceeds of the loan to attorneys trust account.
  • 2/21/08 Micheal Martinez purchases a cashier check made payable to the attorneys trust account and delivers said check to the attorney the same day.
  • 2/22/08 Proceeds of closing disbursed to seller, John Romney.
  • 2/23/08 Cashiers check purchased by Michael Martinez is deposited into attorneys escrow account.
Simple right?  Buyer and seller come to the closing, execute all the documents, no money is disbursed then two days later a cashiers check for the down payment comes in and the proceeds of the transaction are disbursed the next day.  Remember, these are facts that we gleaned from the states own arrest affidavit, an affidavit that we strongly suspect was authored by none other that Assistant State Attorney Bill Kostrzewski.

Now, let's see how Mr. "veteran economic crimes prosecutor" Bill Kostrzewski decided to represent the facts of this very transaction to Judge Mary Barzee when he was  asked to explain the foundation of his case...

Go through it a couple of times, can you pick up the problems with the prosecutors testimony?  Here's a transcript of what went down that day in court in case you couldn't hear the audio...

Judge: what’s Martinez’s role according to the state?

Prosecutor:        Your honor, on February the nineteenth a closing closed at Ms. Estefanos office.  The funds were dispersed that day or the next day.  However, the cash to close, the one hundred twenty three thousand and change,

Judge: Say that again?

Prosecutor:        the cash to closing, the money that the buyer had to put up, you know, not the down payment but the cash to close that he had to put through the bank was approximately one hundred and twenty three thousand dollars, that was never given.  Funds were dispersed without a down payment.  Seven days later Mr. Martinez was approached by Mr. Romney, no, Mr. Fonte, the guy that we just arrested your honor, said “hey look, you wanna make ten grand? We need this money, ”  He goes to the, he goes to the bank with his mother and Mr. Fonte, they get this check, they go and they go to Ms. Estefano, Ms. Estefano’s office and Mr. Fonte introduces him to Ms. Estefano, ah according to the statement, “is it a problem, I’m the remitter on this check, I’m not the buyer.”  She says “that’s not a problem”, takes it and that’s basically it.

Judge: So what would you um, characterize Martinez’s role as somebody who was fronting a portion of the cash?

Prosecutor:        Yes your honor.

Judge: And Fonte was…

Prosecutor:        He was the arranger or the recruiter so to speak.

Notice that the prosecutor makes no mention of a key player in the fraud?  We'll go through it in detail tomorrow.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentines day and another foreclosure mill gets SLAMMED in court.

Doesn't that seem like an appropriate Valentines day card for the wife beating mortgage fraudster we discussed last week?  Beat the woman once and get charged while you're sitting in jail for your nefarious mortgage fraud dealings then get charged for beating her again when you get out of jail on not one but two different bonds without having either of them revoked.  Even stranger, somehow all the charges stemming from the two domestic violence charges get dismissed less than a month later.  Does any of that seem strange to you?  Check our comments section from last Friday, at least one of our readers caught on to what was really going on.  We'll discuss in depth a little later.

Now, let's get back to mortgage fraud, same old ingredients, fake documents, fraud, foreclosed property, etc, except this time the fraud is coming from the other side of the table.  Check this amazing story in the Palm Beach Post over the weekend.  We have attorneys from foreclosure mill Ben-Ezra & Katz lying to the court, misleading the court by filing bogus paperwork and misrepresenting the facts of a case...
A day after federal mortgage giant Fannie Mae fired the prominent law firm of Ben-Ezra & Katz, a Miami judge found the firm's founding partner, Marc Ben-Ezra, in contempt of court for filing "sham" foreclosure documents and "wasting the court's time."
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maxine Cohen Lando expressed her displeasure Friday in a case that involved a property in Homestead with a $265,134 foreclosure judgment issued in July.
Lando said the so-called original note and original mortgage were filed months after the bank said those documents were lost.
"That in itself is a fraud upon the court," Lando wrote in an order to show cause as to why she should not hold Ben-Ezra & Katz attorneys in contempt

But, she added, the action "pales in comparison" to the fact that the mortgage and note are to a different property in Lehigh Acres, and that the documents are improperly signed and notarized. Lando said her verbal contempt finding on Friday would be followed by a written order.  
If that wasn't enough...
The judge dismissed the foreclosure case and banned the lender from refiling it. 
WELL DONE!  Now understand, I'm not applauding the fact that someone who didn't pay their mortgage got off scott free and is going to end up keeping a home that doesn't belong to them, what I am applauding is the fact that some shitbag foreclosure attorney is getting his ass handed to him on a plate by Judge Lando.  It's about time that attorneys who perpetrate a fraud upon the court are dealt with accordingly.

That leads us to the next question, if indeed the attorneys from Ben-Ezra & Katz are punished accordingly for their behavior before Judge Lando, how should we expect a judge to react when the attorney who's lying to the court is a prosecutor?  We'll see tomorrow, it looks like it's time to break out some of our audio recordings...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Even more domestic violence!


That's right folks, the mortgage fraudster who was arrested for beating the crap out of his wife then smothered her with a pillow the day he got out of jail on his mortgage fraud charges was charged for another case of domestic violence WHILE HE WAS IN JAIL! That's right, while the subject of this weeks blog posts was sitting in jail waiting to make bail for his mortgage fraud misadventures, he was actually charged and arraigned for another instance of beating his wife! From the police report...

In case you can't read the text, here it is...
The victim and defendant are married. The victim states that she walked outside their home to ask the defendant for the car keys. The defendant replied no, at which time the victim walked back inside the home and threw a bike on the floor. The defendant went inside and began slapping the victim in her face. On 10-06-08 a routine computer check revealed that the defendant was incarcerated at Dade County Jail on an unrelated charge (see case # PD081003473153). Defendant charged with the above listed offense.
WTF? Getting charged for domestic violence while you're already sitting in jail for another crime? I don't get it, the guys wife had to know he was sitting in jail, so why would she go ahead and file this report? Regardless of her motivation, as I mentioned yesterday, the state of Florida has some very strict procedures for dealing with cases of domestic violence and the court doesn't play around when it comes to dealing with men who beat on women.

Let's recap the time line of events as we've described them over the last few days as they pertain to the domestic violence and mortgage fraud charges...
  • October 3, 2008 - Subject is charged with Grand Theft, Organized Scheme to Defraud and Identity theft during the commission of a mortgage fraud and is taken into custody.
  • October 6, 2008 - Subjects wife files a domestic violence complaint, subject is charged and arraigned for Battery while he's in jail waiting to bond out on the other charges stemming from the mortgage fraud. Somehow he's given a bond while he's in jail (100K I think).
  • October 10, 2008 - Subject is released on bond for the charges associated with the mortgage fraud case ($450k bond) and I suppose on the $100k bond from the domestic violence case that he was charged with while in custody.
  • October 15, 2008 - Subject is charged once again for domestic violence, arrested and taken back into custody.
  • October 17, 2008 - Subject posts bond once again and is released from jail.
I don't understand this could have possibly happened. Just so we're clear, the guy was in jail for a massive mortgage fraud case awaiting bond, while he's incarcerated, he gets charged for domestic violence, then he gets out of jail and while he's out on two different bonds for two different serious cases he gets arrested again for domestic violence, spends a couple of days in jail then bonds out?! Let's give this guy the benefit of the doubt and say that the wife who was filing these domestic violence complaints was a wacko and had no credibility, wouldn't the simple fact that the guy committed another crime while he's out on bail have been enough to revoke his bond on one or both of the previous cases? Even worse, wouldn't you think that the previous bonds would be revoked and the guy would have to sit in jail till he went to trial? Common sense would dictate as much, wouldn't it? Isn't the guy who's out on bail worst nightmare to get rearrested again while on bail? How wasn't this guys bail on the other two cases revoked when he was arrested for the third time?

Something is rotten here folks, it's starting to seem to me that there was an outside influence involved with keeping this guy out of jail, perhaps someone on the state's side that had an interest in keeping this guy as clean as possible and to make his stay within the criminal justice system as painless as possible. Has anyone connected the dots yet? If not, things will begin to make sense real soon.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Details of the domestic violence case we began discussing yesterday..


Bear with me folks, I know the domestic violence angle may not make sense to you in the context of the mortgage fraud stories we've been discussing but I promise it will all make sense by the end of the week.  

Yesterday we left off discussing a domestic violence case that a notorious mortgage fraudster was involved in, today we found the case file and copied it.  Here's the details of what happened according to the police report...

In case you can't read the excerpt from the report, here's the text...
Victim and defendant who lived together for four years were involved in a verbal altercation which escalated into a physical altercation by the defendant.  According to the victim, the defendant began screaming and grabbed her by the arm a started shaking her.  He then proceeded to grab her by the hair and slammed her against the wall.  Once her head hit the wall the victim ran to the room where she attempted to call the police defendant followed, and he took the phone from her impeding the victim to call police.  Defendant then grabbed victim once again and threw her on the couch at which time the victim began screaming and defendant placed a pillow over her face to make her be quiet.  The defendant then stated "I am sorry" and she stopped screaming.  Victim asked for her phone back and the defendant gave it back to her at which time she called the police.  On today's date the defendant was located and arrested.
Oh boy.  Slamming her head against the wall then grabbing her, throwing her down and smothering her with a pillow?  That sounds like some serious shit, at least to me it sounds like this attack could even be construed as an instance of attempted murder.  Regardless the state chose to file the following charges...

Tampering with a victim and simple battery?  Not exactly the way I'd interpret what happened but then again I'm not a cop.  Regardless of how the state decided to proceed against the wife beater, the allegations seem to be pretty serious and considering how stringent the state of Florida's domestic violence laws are, you would think the state gave the offender a proper punishment for this heinous act.  You would think so, but that's hardly what happened...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Domestic violence with a dash of mortgage fraud...

So you just got busted for mortgage fraud and are being accused of ripping off a bank to the tune of nearly $500,000.  Your sorry ass sits in jail for nearly two weeks until your family can get together the money for your $450,000 bond.  Your family and friends finally get together the money to get you out of jail and the state agrees to let you out but with the condition of being under house arrest with a monitor (aka lojack) attached to your ankle.  Not the best of circumstances but at least you're out on the street after spending 13+ days in jail.

What's the first thing you do when you get home?  Beat the shit out of your wife, what else?!  Now, the wife beating alone should have been enough to lock your ass up for a few days, but consider that you were just let out of jail on a fcuking $450,000 bond and on house arrest to boot!  Wouldn't this instance of domestic violence have been enough to revoke your bond?  Not in this case folks, not only was it not enough to get the bond revoked, but the wife beater in question was out on the streets the very next day and had all the charges against him dismissed less than a month later.

Something is rotten about this story, I'm not going to publish names until I get some proof as to what happened.  Looks like we're off to the courthouse tomorrow...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Time for a field trip!

Why not? I'm dying to see where the person who purchased the house that's at the center of the mortgage fraud that we've discussed over the last week lives. From the recorded documents we learned that Leonor Essonreid purchases a home in lovely Coral Gables from John Arthur Romney AKA Property Collateral Inc for the hefty sum of $1,080,000. Take a look for yourselves, isn't 911 Columbus Blvd a lovely piece of real estate?

I have to wonder, what kind of home did she have before this purchase? Maybe something less expensive in the Gables? Perhaps an apartment on Brickell? Maybe even an older art deco home on the beach? Let's find out, first we find her address as it appears on the mortgage for the property located at 911 Columbus Blvd...

There it is outlined in red, 421 East 15th St Apartment 4, Hialeah Florida. Ok, now we're off to see what kind of lovely home Ms. Essonreid owned before trading up to a home in one of the most affluent areas of South Florida. From a quick map quest search we find that Ms. Essonreid lives right around the corner from the world famous Hialeah race track...

Ok, so it's off to Hialeah where we find 421 East 15th St...

Oh god that can't be right! Let's look again...

It turns out that Ms Essonreid does indeed live in this little 1,839 square foot home, to add insult to injury, she lives in one of four 460 square foot efficiencies that makes up this little fourplex. Interesting how someone living in one of the poorest areas in Miami can go ahead and move up to a home in one of the wealthiest areas of Miami that probably has a walk in closet thats the same size as her current home!

Interesting step up for Ms Essonreid huh? Tomorrow we move on to DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Five more minutes and a $1,080,000 later...

We left off last week demonstrating how we could find a massive mortgage fraud case with a bare minimum of effort and about five minutes of searching on the Miami Dade County Recorders office.  First we did a quick search and found a warranty deed for a property purchased by convicted mortgage fraudster John Arthur Romney through his company "Property Collateral". 

After examining the deed we were able to conclude that although the deed wasn't recorded till over four years later, the actual transaction had occurred on November 21, 2006.  Through the cost of the documentary stamps, we were able to deduce that the purchase price of the home in question was $755,000 and since we were not able to find a recorded mortgage for the purchase of this property by Property Collateral Inc, we can only assume that it was a cash purchase.

Next we found that there was a lis pendens filed on the property on November 4, 2009 which signaled the beginning of a foreclosure action against the property.  What struck us as strange was that although the company that purchased the property for what we presumed was all cash, they were still named in the foreclosure action.  The property was purchased on November 21, 2006 for all cash yet they're still named in a foreclosure suit?  We then searched for mortgages on the property by using the names of the other people named in the foreclosure suit and found that there was another lis pendens filed against the property, this one on September 22, 2008, a little more than year before the first one was filed.  Even worse now, two different lis pendens on the property and still no recorded mortgage!  Once again we attempt to search using the names of the other people named in the foreclosure suit for the subject property when we stumble upon this...

Here we find two mortgages recorded on the same day June 4, 2007 for the same property for a borrower named Leonor Essonreid.  Interesting?  Let's summarize what we have at this point...

  • John Romney aka Property Collateral, Inc. purchases subject property located at 911 Columbus Blvd for $755,000 on November 21, 2006 for what we presume is all cash since there is no recorded mortgage.
  • Mortgage is recorded against the property on June 4, 2007 naming Leonor Essonreid as the borrower even though there is no record of the ownership of the property being transferred to her.
  • Lis pendens filed against the property on September 22, 2008.
  • A second lis pendens filed against the property on November 21, 2009.
  • A deed filed on August 3, 2010 conveying ownership of the property from Raul Romero to Property Collateral, Inc. even though the documents were originally signed four years earlier on Novermber 21, 2006.
With me so far or does the time line not make any sense to you?  It's not supposed to but a quick look at Leonor Essonreid's mortgages should explain everything.  Here are the first two pages of the first mortgage, as always, click on the image to enlarge it...

Did anyone catch it?  Even though the mortgage for reasons that can't be explained was recorded on June 4, 2007, the actual closing took place on November 21, 2006!  Who would have guessed it?!  Also note on page two that the amount of the mortgage was $880,000.  As if that wasn't bad enough, take a look at the second mortgage for the same property...

Brilliant, another mortgage recorded on the same day as the first for an additional $200,000 bringing the total amount borrowed against this property to $1,080,000.

I'm sure the astute among you have already realized that John Romney aka Property Collateral, Inc didn't purchase this property for cash on November 21, 2006.  What happened here was that the lender had already funded the loan for Leonor Essonreid in the amount of $1,080,000 and the attorney who was handling the closing had the money sitting in their trust account.  As soon as the money was available, the attorney paid the original seller of the property ($755,000), prepared a deed for the transfer of the property to John Romney aka Property Collateral who simultaneously sold the property to Leonor Essonreid whose loan proceeds were used to fund the entire fraud.  At the end of the day a deed was never recorded conveying the property to Ms. Essonreid, after all what was the point?  I'm sure Ms Essonreid had no interest in the property other than what came along with her role as a straw buyer, since the entire deal was a scam, why would the closing agent worry about recording a deed?  When all was said and done, Mr Romney and his co conspirators in this seven figure fraud walked away with a tidy profit of $325,000.  Not bad for a days work.

Amazing what you can find with as little as five minutes worth of searching online, isn't it?  Tomorrow, we're going to try to find Ms Essonreid and get some idea what a million dollar home buyer looks like.