On January 5, 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) announced that
wire fraud charges were levied in Florida federal court against four individuals
for their alleged participation in a $10 million mortgage fraud scam against
Washington Mutual Bank.
Marco Laureti, owner of Laureti Publishing Co. and also part-time mortgage
broker, was charged with defrauding Washington Mutual by using straw buyers
and fake loan documents to illegally acquire loans for the purchase of
high-end condos that he subsequently diverted for personal use. In addition
to Laureti, charges have also been filed against his associate Felix Mostelac,
title business owner Michelle Cabrera, and a Florida-based investment
group CEO, Pedro Melian.
The Defendants executed the scheme by selecting several Broward and Miami-Dade
residential properties to buy, utilizing straw buyers on the loan applications,
and then fabricating those applications and HUD-1 settlement forms to
mislead Washington Mutual into providing mortgages on the properties.
The USAO said that after the loans had been approved, Laureti ordered Cabrera
to divert a portion of the funds to pay the closing costs, and to divert
additional capital from the funded loans to multiple businesses owned
by Laureti and Mostelac.
The USAO alleges that Laureti and Mostelac used an identical scheme to
finance the purchase of their multimillion-dollar residences in Miami
Beach. Authorities stated that the alleged fraudulent activity took place
between June 2007 and January 2009. Washington Mutual Bank collapsed during
the economic crisis and was seized by the Office of Thrift Supervision
and placed into receivership. After being stripped of its banking license
by the FDIC, the banking subsidiary was eventually sold off to JP Morgan
Chase in 2009.
The criminal complaint filed by the USAO indicates that Cabrera is the
manager and registered broker of Florida Elite Title & Escrow LLC,
and operated as the title agent who disbursed the illegally-acquired funds
for residential developments in South Florida. The documents further reveal
that Melian acted as a straw buyer responsible for applying for and acquiring
fraudulent mortgage funds from Washington Mutual Bank.
The USAO stated that Laureti, a former newspaper publisher as well as a
licensed real estate sales associate and mortgage broker, and Mostelac,
the head of several companies, were long-time business associates.
The criminal charges against Laureti and Mostelac were filed separately
from the complaint implicating Cabrera and Melian. All four individuals
have been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting
a financial institution. However, Laureti and Mostelac also received multiple
counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, which could significantly
enhance their sentencing.
The USAO stated that Defendants, if convicted, could receive up to thirty
years in federal prison for each count.
Contact Alexa Stephenson for more information.