Piscataway Man Sentenced for Role in $10 Million Mortage Fraud Scheme
Ronald Harris operated the mortgage companies Harris Capital and Skyline Capital Group.
The U.S. Attorney's Office announced Tuesday that a Piscataway man has been sentenced to 46 months in prison for his role in a $10 million mortgage fraud scheme.
Ronald Harris, 42, operated the foreclosure rescue companies Harris Capital and Skyline Capital Group, which had offices in Newark and Maplewood.
According to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Harris and a former employee, Sterling Bruce, 38, of Newark, fraudulently promised homeowners help with avoiding foreclosure and with fixing bad credit.
The release read as follows:
They directed the homeowners to allow the title to their homes to be put in the names of third party purchasers, or straw buyers, for six months to a year. Harris told the homeowners that during that time period, he and others would help them obtain more favorable mortgages and improve their credit ratings. The homeowners were told the titles to their homes would be returned to them.
After the homeowners were signed up, Harris, Bruce and others recruited individuals with good credit scores to act as straw buyers of the distressed properties. The straw buyers were told
that they were helping someone save his or her home and that they would make money when they sold the property back to the current owner.
Once the distressed homeowners and straw buyers were in place, Harris, Bruce and Pia Perkinson, 40, of Parlin - a mortgage loan officer at a number of different mortgage loan
companies – and others caused loan applications to be sent in the straw buyers’ names to mortgage lenders. To increase the credit-worthiness of the straw buyers and to ensure that they
would be approved for the loans, Harris, Bruce, Perkinson, and others submitted loan applications containing false personal material and financial information about the straw buyers, such as misstating their employment, income, and assets. Many of the straw buyers’ loan applications falsely stated that they worked for one of Harris’ companies making a substantial salary. Harris would also regularly submit fraudulent supporting documents with the loan
applications to support the false statements, such as fake employment records and fake investment account statements.
Prior to the closings of these fraudulent transactions, Harris and Bruce regularly filed fraudulent liens for tens of thousands of dollars on the properties. At the closings of the transactions, the liens would be paid off with the proceeds of the fraudulently obtained loans.
Harris admitted that he regularly laundered these loan proceeds through various bank accounts he controlled. Harris and his co-conspirators caused lenders to fund dozens of fraudulent loans that totaled more than $10 million, with Harris receiving approximately $1,145,993 of that amount.
Harris previously pleaded guilty to charges of one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, the release said.
Bruce was sentenced on Tuesday in Newark federal court to 18 months in prison, three years supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $1.3 million. He previously pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud conspiracy, the release said.
In addition to the jail time, Harris was also sentenced to five years supervised
release, a $12,500 fine, a forfeiture judgement of $945,548 and restitution of $1.8 million, the release said.
Both Harris and Bruce are banned from working in financial, mortgage,
lending and real estate industries during their respective supervised release periods, the release said.
Perkinson previously pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud conspiracy and admitted submitting fraudulent loan applications to various lenders, as well as taking out at least two fraudulent loans for herself, the release said. She has yet to be sentenced.
An additional co-defendant, Sabir Muhammad, 48, of South Plainfield, is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 4 after pleading guilty to two counts of wire fraud, the release said.
"U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett; special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward; and special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur, with the investigation leading to Tuesday's sentence," the release said.