Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2011
Federal authorities on Wednesday charged a Palm Beach County consulting firm and 15 people with bank fraud in a complicated scheme to steal money and, for some defendants, support narcotics trafficking.
Five of the defendants are identified in court documents as loan officers for large and well-known banks, including Wachovia Bank, HSBC Bank, Fifth Third Bank and Floridian Community Bank.
One of the defendants is identified in court documents as a former investigative assistant for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
The alleged crimes were charged using an information filed in federal court in West Palm Beach, which usually indicates the government has reached a plea deal with the defendants.
According to the information, Boca Raton-based Palm Beach Business Consultants (PBBC) and owner Francis Santa, 51, helped the other defendants in a scheme to provide fraudulent mortgages. A person answering the phone for PBBC on Wednesday afternoon said he worked for an answering service, all employees had gone home for the day and Santa was not available.
The charges allege Santa used his connections with the loan officers at local banks to obtain fraudulent loans and providing kickbacks to the loan officers.
The information filed charges seven bankers: Daniel Agudelo, 34, of Royal Palm Beach, a small business banker at Fifth Third Bank; Christopher Brooks, 34, of Tamarac, an assistant vice president at Bank of America; Macario Deguzman, 30, of Miramar, vice president at Regions Bank and AmTrust Bank; William Hebert, 36, of Lake Worth, vice president at HSBC Bank; David Mcguire, 39, of Boca Raton, a regional private banker at Wachovia Bank; David Ramoy, 33, of Lighthouse Point, a bank officer at Floridian Community Bank; and Alexander Reyes, 25, of Boynton Beach, a small-business banker at Fifth Third Bank.
Six PBBC clients and a straw purchaser were charged for their alleged participation in the fraud: Jeanne Ward, 48, of Sunrise, a former investigative analyst for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office; Terrance Ward, 48, of Loxahatchee; Anthony Depierro, 46, of Boca Raton; Gary Gross, 59, of Boca Raton; Antonio Mannarino, 42, of Boca Raton; Derek Nadler, 45, of Boca Raton; and Thomas Correa, 46, of Plantation, a reserve deputy for Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI announced the charges during a press conference Wednesday, calling it a culmination of a two-year FBI undercover investigation.
The charges allege Santa provided loans and lines of credit to small businesses that could not legitimately qualify for financing. In exchange for this purported service, Santa charged his clients upfront fees between $12,500 and $25,000. These loan officers accepted bribes, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, from Santa or an undercover agent in return for pushing through fraudulent loans or providing false verification of deposits.
According to the information, the fraudulent loan packages were created by two PBBC employees, Rodney Kahane and Daniel Paine, who were convicted and sentenced earlier for their role in the scheme, according to a news release. Kahane was sentenced to 66 months in prison, and Paine was sentenced to 57 months in prison.
The news release said the bank fraud investigation also led to the discovery of a separate identity theft ring involving seven other defendants who were previously charged.
All the defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud or bank fraud, which carries a maximum statutory sentence of 30 years in prison. The loan officers are also charged with money laundering, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.
South Florida Business Journal - by Paul Brinkmann