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CFO Sink: Arrests Made in $2 Million Mortgage Fraud Ring

3/1/2007

CONTACT:  Tara Klimek or Nina Banister 
                 (850) 413-2842   
 
TALLAHASSEE – Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced today the arrests of two title agents believed to be part of a six-member mortgage fraud ring suspected of duping several mortgage lenders and a homeowner out of nearly $2 million. 
 
The arrests stem from a joint investigation between the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), and the Office of Financial Regulation (OFR), and focused on real estate transactions on five properties located in Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. On all of these properties, bogus mortgages were obtained using false HUD-1’s, sham appraisals, bogus second mortgages, false verifications of employment, earnest money that was never received and other fraudulent documents.
 
“These kinds of schemes cause real economic harm to Floridians and our state’s economy,” said CFO Sink.  “I commend the investigators for unraveling this scheme and working with the Office of Statewide Prosecution to get charges filed against these individuals.”
 
On Friday, the investigation led to the arrests of Pamela Jones Johnson, 38, of Parkland, and Elena Gunter Granderson, 43, Pembroke Pines, each on a charge of organized scheme to defraud.  If convicted on that charge, each could face up to 30 years in prison.  Four other defendants are still being sought; one is believed to be in South Florida and three are being sought in the New York area.
 
The charges stem from alleged mortgage fraud connected to two properties in Port Saint Lucie, one property in Tamarac, one property in Hialeah and one property in West Palm Beach. The scheme involved falsifying borrower qualifications and submitting fraudulent documents to mortgage lenders which reflected non-existent second mortgages.  The scheme also caused a homeowner to lose their home after it was sold to a straw buyer in lieu of foreclosure and the homeowner was ultimately evicted.
 
DIF’S lead detective was Ted Padich, and OFR’s lead investigator was Steven Brignola. 
 
Anyone with information about this case or any other suspected fraud case is asked to call the department's Fraud Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445.  A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.