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Atlanta-area real estate agents, others plead guilty to mortgage-fraud scheme

by John Yellig

Atlanta-area real estate agents, others plead guilty to mortgage-fraud scheme

Three Atlanta-area real estate agents were among 11 defendants who pleaded guilty to a multi-year scheme that led to the aproval of more than 100 mortgages based on fabricated documents and false information, the Justice Department said.

Under the scheme, the defendants helped unqualified homebuyers submit fraudulent loan applications to lenders to secure mortgages, many of which were insured by the Federal Housing Administration and resulted in claims being paid for defaulted loans, the DOJ said in a release.

Listing agents Eric Hill of Tyrone and Robert Kelske of Smyrna, representing a “major nationwide homebuilder,” instructed more than 100 homebuyers on what kind of assets and what type of employment and income they needed to claim on mortgage applications, the DOJ said.

Hill and Kelske then coordinated with document fabricators who altered the homebuyers’ bank statements to inflate assets and create direct deposits from employers they selected, according to the DOJ, which added that the direct deposits were backed up by fake earnings statements. Other participants posed as employment verifiers and responded to lenders’ emails and phone calls to falsely verify the homebuyers’ employment.

Another real estate agent, Anthony Richard of Locust Grove, falsely claimed to represent the homebuyers to collect commissions from the home sales, the DOJ said. Richard had in reality never met the homebuyers and paid Hill and Kelske a majority of the commissions in return for being added to the deal, keeping a small amount of the payments for himself, according to the release.

Richard, Hill and Kelske, as well as the other defendants, agreed to pay restitution to the victims, which include the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The full list of defendants, all of whom pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States, includes:

•         Eric Hill, 50, of Tyrone.

•         Robert Kelske, 52, of Smyrna.

•         Anthony Richard, 44, of Locust Grove.

•         Fawziyyah Connor, 41, of Tyrone.

•         Stephanie Hogan, 57, of Norcross.

•         Jerod Little, 42, of McDonough.

•         Renee Little, 33, of McDonough.

•         Maurice Lawson, 36, of Powder Springs.

•         Todd Taylor, 54, of Fairburn.

•         Paige McDaniel, 49, of Stockbridge.

•         Donald Fontenot, 52, of Locust Grove.

Another defendant, Cephus Chapman, 49, of Warner Robins, is awaiting trial.

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