Realtor convicted of organizing multi-year mortgage fraud and real estate commission schemes | USAO-NDGA
ATLANTA — Atlanta realtor Eric Hill has been convicted for his part in a mortgage fraud scheme that netted more than $21 million in fraudulent mortgages. Many of the fraudulent loans were insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), resulting in the payment of more than $850,000 in claims for defaulted mortgages. Hill also engaged in a scheme to defraud his employer, a national real estate developer, out of more than $480,000 in real estate commissions.
“Eric Hill and his co-conspirators defrauded mortgage holders out of millions of dollars, with taxpayers bearing much of the loss,” U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine said. “We will vigorously pursue those who commit mortgage fraud and enrich themselves at the expense of financial institutions and government programs that insure or guarantee loans.”
“While it’s easy to dismiss cases of financial fraud as victimless crimes because of their lack of violence, there is still very real victimization to our economy and our taxpayers,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in charge of the FBI Atlanta. “This conviction sends the message that the FBI will work persistently to protect American citizens and the housing market from predators who trick our economy for their own personal gain.”
“Eric Hill has engaged in premeditated criminal acts for the sole purpose of enriching himself, with no regard for the millions of American home buyers who rely on federal housing programs to insure their mortgages. His fraudulent actions not only undermine to the fiscal integrity of the FHA, but also to our neighbors and communities who fall victim to these schemes,” said Special Agent in Charge Wyatt Achord of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“The Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) is committed to holding accountable those who commit housing and mortgage market fraud and misuse the resources of government-sponsored businesses. government regulated by the FHFA. We are proud to have worked with HUD-OIG, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia on this case,” said Edwin S. Bonano, Special Agent in Charge, FHFA-OIG, Southeast Region.
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Erskine, the charges and other information presented to the court: The defendants participated in a scheme in which homebuyers and real estate agents submitted fraudulent loan applications to trick mortgage lenders into financing mortgages. Eric Hill and Robert Kelske were real estate agents who represented a major national home builder. Hill and Kelske helped more than 100 buyers who were looking to buy a home, but were not qualified for a mortgage, to commit fraud. Agents instructed homebuyers on the type of assets they should report having to the bank, and the type of employment and income they should submit in their mortgage applications.
Hill and Kelske then coordinated with several document makers, including defendants Fawziyyah Connor and Stephanie Hogan, who altered the homebuyers’ bank statements to inflate their assets and create bank entries reflecting fake direct deposits from a employer selected by the real estate agent. The document makers also generated fake income statements that matched the direct deposit entries to make it look like the homebuyer was employed and earning income from a fake employer. Other program participants then acted as employment verifiers and responded to phone calls or emails from lenders to falsely verify homebuyers’ employment. Defendants Jerod Little, Renee Little, Maurice Lawson, Todd Taylor, Paige McDaniel and Donald Fontenot acted as employment verifiers. Hill and Kelske coordinated the creation and submission of the false information so that the lies to the lenders were consistent.
In another aspect of the scheme, Hill and Kelske conspired with real estate agents Anthony Richard and Cephus Chapman, who falsely claimed to represent homebuyers as sales agents in order to receive commissions from home sales. In fact, these real estate agents had never even met the buyers they claimed to represent. To avoid detection, officers often informed closing attorneys that they would not be available for the house closing and wired instructions for receiving their commissions. When these so-called sales agents received their unearned commissions, they paid the majority of the commissions to Hill or Kelske for allowing them to be added to the deal, keeping a small portion for their part in the scheme.
Eric Hill, 52, of Tyrone, Georgia, was sentenced to two years and six months in prison followed by three years of probation. Hill was convicted of those charges on September 21, 2020, after pleading guilty.
In addition to Hill, defendants Donald Fontenot, Maurice Lawson, Stephanie Hogan, Jerod Little, Renee Little, Paige McDaniel, Fawziyyah Connor and Anthony Richard have all been convicted for their roles in the conspiracies.
- Todd Taylor has pleaded guilty and is expected to be sentenced on March 3, 2022.
- Robert Kelske also pleaded guilty and is expected to be sentenced on April 14, 2022.
- Cephus Chapman was found guilty at trial and is expected to be sentenced on February 10, 2022.
This matter was investigated by the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of Inspector General of the Federal Financing Agency of lodging.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys David A. O’Neal, Alison B. Prout and former Assistant District Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Ryan Huschka prosecuted the case.
For more information, please contact the US Attorney’s Office of Public Affairs at [email protected] or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.