Area men guilty in mortgage fraud scheme
TAMPA - The heads of a local mortgage company have been convicted of leading a mortgage fraud scheme against 10 lenders. William "Ondra" Joel, 32, of Oxford, and Maurice Vernon, 33, of Tampa, were convicted last week in U.S. District Court of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and making false statements on loan applications. The conviction followed a two-week trial. Joel and Vernon face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison on each of the 11 counts of wire fraud and mail fraud. Sentencing hearings for the two are scheduled for April 16.Prosecutors say the men and co-conspirator Elton Lassiter, also of Oxford, used Joel's company, Investor's Outlet Inc. of Tampa, to hide their scheme. Joel owned the company, and Vernon was vice president. Prosecutors said Vernon recruited Jill Jackson, of St. Petersburg, to purchase 10 homes during 10 weeks. Information reported on Jackson's loan applications was falsified to inflate her income and claim all the homes as her primary residence. Joel profited by arranging payoffs to Investors Outlet at closing for repairs to the properties that were never made, the government said. Joel kicked back some of the fraudulent proceeds to Vernon and Jackson. Jackson didn't get to keep her money very long. Vernon, prosecutors said, drained Jackson's bank accounts and bought a car and clothing. Lassiter, 45, and Jackson, 35, previously pleaded guilty for their participation. Lassiter was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison. Jackson's sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 7.
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