Federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced indictments against 10 Chicago-area residents on charges they sought to fraudulently obtain more than 50 residential mortgage loans totaling at least $14.5 million.
According to the complaint, straw buyers who were improperly qualified for loans, obtained the mortgages to finance properties on the West and South sides of Chicago from which the defendants profited. As a result, the lending agencies incurred losses of at least $8 million.
Among those indicted was Keith Austin, 41 of Broadview and Addison, who faces charges of wire and bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors say Austin directed the scheme, which the complaint alleges took place over eight years, beginning in August 2004 and continuing until October 2012.
Cesar Marin, 30, of Schaumburg, was charged with obstruction of justice and wire fraud, while Mark Pettis, 57, of Chicago, was charged with obstruction and bank fraud. Marin and Pettis provided false documents in response to federal grand jury subpoenas last year, the complaint states.
Authorities say that Austin and Pettis, along Wilson Titus, 64, of Broadview; Constance Paek, 34, of Glenview; and Michael Thill, 54, of Park Ridge, recruited homeowners to sell their properties intending to inflate the sale price to lenders allowing them and other defendants to pocket the proceeds of the mortgage loans.
Additionally Austin, Titus, Paek and Clyde Banks (also known as Charles Barksdale), 36, recruited individuals to act as straw buyers to purchase residential real estate promising them that they would not have to use their own money, and that they would be paid to act as purchasers and attend closings but would not have to make mortgage loan payments, prosecutors said.
Other defendants facing fraud and obstruction charges are Joseph Bateast, 40, of Bolingbrook; Robert Brown, 37, whose address is unknown; and Steven Gawlik, 41, of Chicago. Brandie Roberts, 34, of Brookfield, a former closing agent for a Westchester title company, was indicted separately on wire fraud, prosecutors said.
The maximum sentence for a wire or bank fraud conviction is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine plus mandatory restitution.