Four people have been arrested for their roles in two separate but related scams, one of which involved surplus foreclosure funds and victimized at least 20 Florida homeowners.
The other victimized an elderly South Florida homeowner through surplus foreclosure funds and mortgage fraud.
Agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) arrested attorney Terrence Rosenberg, Shannelle Brantley and Leighton Brown, all of Miami, for their roles in the mortgage fraud and surplus foreclosure funds scam.
Authorities also arrested Manuel Rosado Jr. of Miami in connection with the foreclosure surplus fraud scheme, in which Rosenberg also participated.
"Floridians should not have to worry about being targeted by con artists trying to cheat them out to their hard-earned money," said Attorney General Charlie Crist.
"The arrest of these individuals is significant because this is not the kind of criminal case that is made with any regularity," said FDLE Commissioner Guy Tunnell. "We hope that these arrests will send a message that this kind of fraudulent activity is totally unacceptable and unlawful, and that cases like this will be actively pursued and prosecuted."
Authorities contend that Rosado masterminded the foreclosure funds scam with attorney Rosenbergs assistance. Rosado allegedly used records from state courts in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties to locate surplus foreclosure funds left over from homes auctioned to satisfy mortgages.
Authorities say Rosenberg would then file court paperwork typically used to claim the funds for the homeowners, but would keep the funds for his personal use instead of disbursing them to the appropriate homeowners. He faces disbarment action before the Florida Supreme Court for his participation in the scheme.
The second scam resulted in the eviction of an elderly victim from her South Florida home. Investigators charge that Rosenberg and an accomplice approached the 68-year-old victim after learning she had recently lost her house due to foreclosure and persuaded her to pay them her surplus foreclosure funds, supposedly taking a fee for their help in locating a new house and using the remaining amount to purchase the house on her behalf.
Brantley is charged with assisting in the fraud by submitting fraudulent mortgage documents that enabled the thieves to purchase a house, which they quickly resold and kept the money for their personal use. The elderly victim, who was living in the new house when it was resold, was evicted by the new buyers. During the investigation that followed, Brown, 25, allegedly contacted witnesses and urged them to lie to the police regarding the fraudulent mortgage documents.
Miami-Dade County Inspector General Christopher Mazzella expressed his dismay at the proliferation of crimes targeting homeowners. "As the equity in homes increases because of the boost in property values, residential dwellings become attractive targets to criminal predators, he said.
The elaborate foreclosure and mortgage scheme concocted by the defendants to bleed the equity out of the victims' homes is suggestive of a growing crime problem that is seriously impacting homeowners nationally and in Miami-Dade County," Mazzella added.
Rosado and Rosenberg are charged with organized scheme to defraud and second-degree grand theft. Brantley is charged with filing a false document in a mortgage transaction and second-degree grand theft, while Brown is charged with being an accessory after the fact.
If convicted of all charges, Rosado faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison, Rosenberg faces up to 30 years in prison, Brantley faces up to 20 years in prison and Brown faces up to 5 years in prison.