Two conspirators in a Florida mortgage scam that prosecutors described as an “equity stripping” mortgage fraud scheme that included identity theft and resulted in more than $6 million in fraudulent loans had their day in federal court in Tampa last week.
Federal prosecutors had claimed that the conspirators fraudulently submitted mortgage applications under false pretenses, obtaining and disbursing the proceeds of those loans to bank accounts in their control.
Last Thursday, mortgage broker Luis Uribe pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. He could face as much as 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Uribe, 28, was a licensed mortgage broker involved in Bay General Contracting Services, a non-licensed contracting service firm. Federal prosecutors alleged that the company obtained dozens of fraudulent loans between July 2006 and September 2007, but never built anything. Bay General never hired any employees and brought in no one to work on the projects it had obtained loans for, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors also alleged that Bay General was used to improperly inflate the value of properties being bought, to strip actual and fraudulently created equity out of properties and to serve as a vehicle for “siphoning the proceeds” from fraudulently obtained loans.
On Friday, Andrea Batronie, 31, a licensed title agent from Land O’Lakes, Florida, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for her part in the scheme.
Batronie was found guilty last October of conspiracy to commit mail, bank and wire fraud.
Uribe is said to have obtained mortgage loans under false pretenses through a shell contracting company using stolen identities, apparently on the premise of additional construction work to be done. At closing, Batronie would divert the funds into bank accounts under their control.
This may not be Andrea Batronie’s first time in court.
On June 9, 2001, the TV program “Judge Hatchett” featured a Michael Cericola verses a Scott and Andrea Batronie of Florida. Cericola claimed that Scott and Andrea Batronie had sold him a scuba tank on ebay that was unusable.
You can view part of the episode on YouTube here.
Unfortunately — although it’s not a surprise — the YouTube video has been “removed by the user.”
We’re guessing that Scott and Andrea Batronie didn’t find it very funny anymore, after Andrea had to go before a real court and got a real sentence.
If you can find another copy of it online, please let us know.
U. S. District Judge Steven Merryday in Tampa sentenced Luis Uribe to 8.5 years in prison for his role in the “equity stripping” mortgage fraud scheme that included identity theft.
This sentence is in addition to a 34 month sentence that Uribe received for a $3.8 million mortgage fraud scheme in Chicago.
The Tampa Tribune reports that Uribe cooperated with investigators after his arrest, giving them information about the schemes and his co-defendants. The newspaper also reports that “Before he was sentenced, Uribe apologized to the victims and to his family. ‘I’ve been incarcerated nine months,’ he said. ‘I’m not the same person as when I came in.’ He said his wife divorced him as a result of this. ‘I ask the court to consider I have a responsibility as a father. … I can only ask the court to be as lenient as possible.’
“He said he hopes to enroll in spiritual and educational programs in prison. ‘I want to live a good life that’s free of shame and crime,’ he said.”
“Merryday paraphrased his interpretation of the defendant’s plea for lenience: ‘Judge, don’t let the blood in your veins run as cold as mine was the day I committed this offense.’ The judge added, ‘I guess I would ask the same favor if I was in your shoes’.”