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Two Women Sentenced to Prison Terms for Their Roles in $1.3 Million Mortgage Fraud

Friday, May 24, 2013

Two Women Sentenced to Prison Terms for Their Roles in $1.3 Million Mortgage Fraud

The defendants are among five people convicted in related schemes.

Orpel Tucker, 44, of Washington, DC, and Tania Firmani, 46, of Brooms Island, Md., have been sentenced to prison terms for their roles in a mortgage fraud scheme which cost mortgage lenders more than $1.3 million.

Tucker was sentenced on May 16, 2013 to a 37-month prison term and Firmani was sentenced today to 15 months of incarceration. Both appeared before the Honorable Reggie B. Walton in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

The sentences were announced by US Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., Gary R. Barksdale, Inspector in Charge, Washington Division, US Postal Inspection Service; Joseph W. Clarke, Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Inspector General of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development; Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and William P. White, Commissioner of the District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.

Tucker pled guilty in October 2010 to two charges: conspiracy to commit bank and mail fraud, and wire fraud.  In addition to the prison term, Judge Walton ordered her to pay more than $1.3 million in restitution. He also signed a forfeiture order in the amount of $1.3 million. Upon completion of her prison term, Tucker will be placed on three years of supervised release.

Firmani pled guilty in July 2010 to conspiracy to commit bank and mail fraud.  In addition to the prison term, Judge Walton ordered her to pay more than $1.3 million in restitution. Upon completion of her prison term, Firmani will be placed on three years of supervised release.

According to the statements of offense signed at the plea hearings, from September 2005 to April 2008, Tucker and Firmani, with the assistance of others, defrauded banks and other lenders of money through false statements and misrepresentations. 

Tucker, Firmani, and others used about 20 residential real estate transactions to fraudulently obtain mortgage loans of over $7.5 million.  Loan documents in support of these mortgages listed false employers and false salaries for the buyers, exaggerated the assets available to the buyers to pay back the loans and make cash contributions, and incorrectly listed the buyers’ intent to occupy the houses. The appraisals misrepresented the conditions of the homes, greatly enhancing the appraised prices, and by doing so, raising the amount of loans which the lenders were willing to extend.

During the settlement of the sales transactions, thousands of lender dollars were siphoned off through fake “renovation” invoices and misrepresentations on the settlement documents.   Through this process, Tucker fraudulently obtained approximately $1.1 million, even though she was not the seller on any of the properties.  Tucker used some of this money to pay for the assistance of others in the conspiracy, to share with a co-conspirator who brought her into the scheme, and to pay for bogus “down payments” for the buyers.

 After closing, the co-conspirators failed to pay the mortgages on many of the properties.  The lenders were forced to foreclose and resell the properties at a loss of over $1.3 million.

Firmani acted as the settlement agent in most of these transactions. She also assisted others in their mortgage schemes, including Akinola George, who was sentenced to 40 months in prison, and LaFrances Dudley O’Neal, who is pending sentencing after a jury trial.

George, 44, of Washington, DC, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and mail fraud. George was involved in 22 property sales and foreclosures cost those mortgage lenders $2 million. O’Neal, 49, of Clinton, Md., was found guilty by a jury of conspiracy and bank fraud charges. She was involved with seven real estate properties, with fraudulently obtained mortgages, all of which fell into foreclosure with a loss in excess of $950,000.

Another defendant, Donald Ramsey, 46, of Alexandria, Va., pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and bank fraud and is to be sentenced Aug. 2, 2013.He acted as a loan broker for O’Neal for some of her seven properties.

In announcing the sentences, US Attorney Machen, Inspector in Charge Barksdale, Special Agent in Charge Clarke, Assistant Director in Charge Parlave and Commissioner White praised those who worked on the case from the US Postal Inspection Service, US Department of Housing and Urban Development - Office of Inspector General, the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking, and the Metropolitan Police Department. They also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the US Attorney’s Office, including:  Forensic Accountant Crystal Boodoo; Paralegal Specialists Donna Galindo,  Diane Hayes, Shanna Hays; former Paralegal Specialist Sarah Reis, and Assistant US Attorney Diane Lucas in the Asset Forfeiture Section.  Finally, he acknowledged the work of Assistant US Attorney Virginia Cheatham, who investigated and prosecuted the cases.