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Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater Halts an $11.5 Million Mortgage Fraud Scam

1/6/2011

Contact: Alexis Lambert or Jennifer Hirst 
(850) 413-2842
 
TALLAHASSEE—Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced the arrest of mortgage fraud scammer Guillermo Fraginals Parra, 37, of Hialeah, on charges of first degree grand theft.  Parra, the 18th individual arrested in this scam, was a real estate appraiser at the time the crimes occurred and was being paid on the side to inflate the value of various condominiums in the Brickell Bay Condo Community.
 
“This kind of fraud robs hardworking Floridians and our state of the dollars we need to continue rebuilding our economy and our communities.  I am committed to exposing these crimes and those who perpetuate them,” said CFO Jeff Atwater.  “Yesterday’s arrest exemplifies the hard work of our fraud detectives who remained dedicated to investigating this case.  I am committed to coordinating with our state and federal counterparts to uncover these scams much more quickly.”
 
The main facilitator of this scheme was Miami realtor Pedro Rodriguez, who fled the country after learning about the warrant for his arrest and was extradited on a Federal Fugitive warrant from Costa Rica in 2008.  Costa Rican authorities captured Rodriguez and held him in jail from July to December, 2008, until he was extradited to Miami-Dade County in December, 2008.
 
The investigation by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud began when a tip was received from a Miami real estate law firm.  The firm discovered one of their employees, closing agent Rita Garrett, was facilitating the stealing of funds from escrow trust accounts through a scam using double settlement statements. The double settlement statements scam used two HUD-1 form.  The bank received the fraudulent HUD settlement statement that included the inflated appraisal, while the seller would receive the legitimate HUD settlement statement based on market value.  This transaction resulted in the buyer leaving the mortgage closing with hundreds of thousands of dollars.
 
Pedro Rodriguez approached the co-conspirators, who were mainly comprised of “straw” buyers, or a person who agreed to knowingly lie about their net worth in order to qualify for a mortgage loan.  He also approached Parra, convincing him to inflate property appraisals.  Through the real estate appraiser (Parra), a real estate closer (Garrett) and multiple “straw” buyers, the 18 individuals involved in the scam received over $11.5 million in various amounts.
 
Co-defendants who have already been arrested include:
 
• Pedro Rodriguez was arrested on one count organized fraud, three counts 1st degree grand theft and four counts 2nd degree grand theft.
• Evelin D. Rodriguez, wife of Pedro Rodriguez, was a “straw” buyer and gained almost $650,000 through this criminal activity. She was arrested on one count of 1st degree grand theft.
• Rita Jean Garrett was charged with organized fraud and five other counts of grand theft.  Garrett was the rogue closing agent at the Miami law firm.
• Mirilis Miriam Rodriguez was charged with one count of 1st degree grand theft. Mirilis is a Miami dentist and a relative of subjects Pedro and Evelin Rodriguez.
• Luisa Deanne Cladera, a “straw” buyer” was charged with one count of 1st degree grand theft.
• Lylian Mendez, a “straw” buyer, was charged with one count of 2nd degree grand theft.
• Jacqueline Izquierdo, a “straw” buyer, turned herself into Dade County Corrections on April 4, 2007 and was booked on a warrant for one count of 1st degree grand theft.  She is currently awaiting trial.
• Licurgo Constantine, a “straw” buyer on three properties, was charged with three counts of 1st degree grand theft.
• Rigoberto Gamboa, a “straw” buyer, was charged with one count of 1st degree grand theft.  He is the husband of co-defendant, Lylian Mendez.
• Reynaldo Aleman, a “straw” buyer, was charged with one count of 1st degree grand theft. 
• Gabriel Bea, a “straw” buyer, was charged with one count of 1st degree grand theft.
• Teannes Cladera, a “straw” buyer, was charged with one count of 1st degree grand theft.
• Jose Melian, a “straw” buyer, was charged with one count of 1st degree grand theft. 
• Yant Garcia was booked on a warrant for one count of 1st degree grand theft, and two counts of 2nd degree grand theft.  Garcia received funds from fraudulent mortgage transactions through his company Cosmopolitan Mortgage Investments, Inc.  He is currently awaiting trial.
• Ernesto Matos was booked on a warrant for one count of 1st degree grand theft and one count and 2nd degree grand theft.  Matos received funds from fraudulent mortgage transactions through his company Queislan Investments, Inc.  He is currently awaiting trial.
• Michel Gonzalez was charged with one count of 1st degree grand theft.  Gonzalez received funds from fraudulent mortgage transactions through his company MGZ Investments, Inc.
• Ross Jimenez was charged with 1st degree grand theft.  Jimenez received commissions for brokering fraudulent mortgage loans through his employers, Countrywide Mortgage and CTX Mortgage.
 
The individuals in this scam who have already been convicted are facing court ordered restitution.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud, call toll-free 1-800-378-0445 or visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com and click on “Report Fraud.”
 
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Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services including the Division of Insurance Fraud.  CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away capital, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.