6 sentenced in home equity scam

A group that defrauded Wachovia, Bank of America and Washington Mutual of more than $3.7 million with fraudulent home equity loan applications were sentenced in federal court Friday.

The group of six, including four from metro Atlanta, received one to nearly six years in prison, according to U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.

The scheme’s ringleaders recruited “straw borrowers” to apply for home equity loans using bogus quit claim deeds and other documents to obtain loans. The proceeds of the loans then would be passed back to the ringleaders, according to prosecutors.

A former Bank of America employee was also recruited to usher more than $1.4 million in fraudulent home equity loans in exchange for cash, meals, a resort gift card and diamond rings, prosecutors said.

“This fraud scheme, like so many, was based on greed and lies,” Yates said in a statement. “The conspirators designed an insidious scam to target banks and local home owners by using homes to secure loans, many times without the owners’ knowledge.”

Metro Atlantans sentenced in the scheme include Shalena Sutherlin, 27, of Douglasville, described as “a prolific straw borrower”; Catasha Browning, 36, of Douglasville, a recruiter; Todd Ivery, 43, of Kennesaw, a document forger; and former BOA employee Hung Quoc Nguyen, 30, of Buford. The ringleaders were identified as Otis Bernard Livingston, 44, of Gulfport, Miss., and Dionne Michelle Whitted, 37, of Castle Hayne, N.C.

Forged quit claim deeds were submitted on eighteen residential parcels of property that belonged to homeowners, some of whom were unaware of the scheme. False financial information, including tax returns, W-2s and pay stubs, also was submitted to the banks.

Livingston and Whitted were sentenced five years and 11 months, and five years and 2 months, respectively; Ivery was sentenced to four years and 7 months; Sutherlin to two years and 10 months; Nguyen to two years and six months; and Browning to a year and 2 months.

Prosecutors said Nguyen received two diamond rings worth more than $8,000 for his help in the scheme.