Late last week, a federal jury in Tampa found William “Ondra” Joel of Oxford, Florida and Maurice Vernon of Tampa guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and making false statements on loan applications submitted to FDIC-insured financial institutions. Both men face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison on each of the eleven counts of wire fraud and mail fraud. For each of the two counts of making false statements to an FDIC-insured financial institution, they each face a maximum of 30 years in federal prison. They will be sentenced in the spring after a pre-sentencing investigation can be completed.
Last year, a federal grand jury indicted Joel, Vernon and a co-conspirator, Elton Lassiter, charging the men with thirteen federal crimes related to an alleged mortgage fraud scheme. The evidence presented at trial indicated that Joel and Vernon recruited co-conspirator Jill Jackson to purchase ten residential properties in 2006. Jackson had a good credit rating but had insufficient weekly take-home income from her job as a call-center supervisor to afford the purchase of even one of the ten properties.
Testimony and evidence at trial suggested that Jackson’s weekly take-home pay was $300 to $400. The ten properties, collectively, cost more than $1.8 million. Joel and Vernon arranged for Lassiter, a loan processor, to facilitate the approval, processing and funding of loans from ten different lenders for each of the ten properties.
The loan applications submitted to the lenders included false information relating to Jackson’s gross monthly income and her intent to occupy the homes as her primary residence. Joel arranged payoffs out of each closing to his company for repairs to each property that were never done. Joel then kicked-back fraud proceeds to Vernon and Jackson either through his company or directly from title agents at closing.
Both Lassiter and Jackson previously pleaded guilty for their participation in this scheme. Lassiter was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison. Jackson has not yet been sentenced. The media reports did not indicate whether co-defendants Lassiter and Jackson testified against the investigation’s primary targets, Joel and Vernon, but it would certainly not be surprising to hear that they did cooperate with prosecutors