A Lynn accountant pleaded guilty this week in federal court in Boston to assisting a multi-year mortgage fraud scheme by creating fraudulent tax returns and submitting fraudulent letters to lenders.
David Plunkett, 53, of Lynn, pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of aiding in the submission of false tax returns. U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns scheduled sentencing for June 25, 2019.
George Kritopoulos, 46, of Salem, one of the alleged leaders of the mortgage fraud scheme, was indicted in September 2018, and has pleaded not guilty. Co-conspirator, Joseph Bates III, 38, of Lynnfield, pleaded guilty in October 2018 to one count of conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, and two counts of bank fraud.
According to the charging documents, from 2006 through 2015, Bates and others engaged in a scheme to defraud banks and other financial institutions by causing false information to be submitted to those institutions on behalf of borrowers – people recruited to purchase properties – located primarily in Salem. The properties were usually multi-family buildings with two-to-four units, which the co-conspirators then converted into condominiums. The co-conspirators recruited other borrowers to purchase the individual condominium units, which were also financed by fraudulent mortgage loans.
The false information submitted to lenders included, among other things, representations concerning the borrowers’ employment, income, assets, and intent to occupy the property. Specifically, the false employment information included representations that borrowers were employed by entities that were, in fact, shell companies used to advance the fraudulent scheme. The employment information included false representations about the income that the borrowers received from the entities, when, in fact, the borrowers received little or no income from them. Furthermore, the income asserted on the borrowers’ loan applications substantially overstated their true income. The false information also included representations that the recruited borrowers intended to live in the properties that they were purchasing, when the borrowers, in fact, did not intend to do so.
Plunkett assisted the scheme by preparing tax returns for some of the borrowers that contained false and inflated income. Some of those tax returns were submitted to lenders in support of the fraudulent loan applications. Plunkett also signed letters falsely representing that his CPA firm had prepared corporate tax returns for one of the shell entities, when in fact no such returns had ever been prepared or filed.
Because the borrowers did not have the financial ability to repay the loans, in many instances, they defaulted on their loan payments, resulting in foreclosures and millions of dollars of losses to the financial institutions.
The charge of bank fraud provides for a sentence of no greater than 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and a fine of $1 million, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of aiding in filing a false tax return provides for a sentence of no greater than three years in prison, one year of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.