Glenoma resident pleads guilty in California multi-million dollar mortgage fraud

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 6:33 pm

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A former Southern California woman who now lives in Glenoma pleaded guilty today to charges in connection with orchestrating a mortgage fraud scheme convincing lenders to fund more than $20 million in loans on approximately three dozen properties in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Wanda Coleman, 59, admitted to one count of mail fraud pursuant to a plea agreement filed under seal in U.S. District Court in Portland, according to authorities.

Assistant United States Attorney Joshua Robbins said Coleman had a film company and some of the proceeds were used to finance films and some for personal use.

She is a former resident of Pauma Valley in San Diego County, he said. He said he couldn’t say exactly if she had family or other connections that prompted her to relocate to Lewis County.

Robbins said Coleman recruited straw buyers who offered to pay sellers substantially more than their asking price in return for the sellers’ agreement to refund the excess amount to her or companies she controlled.

She and co-conspirators submitted mortgage applications that contained false information regarding the buyers’ employment, income and assets as well as omitted material information, according to the U.S. Attorneys’ Office.

The buyers ultimately defaulted on the loans, resulting in foreclosures and losses of more than $11 million to the lenders, Robbins said.

The indictment was filed a year ago, but covered activities from as early as 2005 and into 2009, he said. It’s the kind of scheme which was easier to pull off before the housing market crashed and transactions tightened up, he said.

Three others have pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme, as well as two more individuals in related cases, according to Robbins. The so-called straw buyers were not charged, he said.

“The mortgage broker, the escrow agent, they were all in on it,” Robbins said.

Participants also forged bank statements and prepared other fraudulent documents to corroborate the false claims, according to the U.S. Attorneys’ Office.

Robbins said he only knew of the one film Coleman was involved in called “Samurai Woman”.

The case grew out of an investigation by the FBI and originated in the United States Attorneys Office in the Central District of California. It was transferred to the District of Oregon for entry of the plea and sentencing because of the proximity to Coleman’s new residence, Robbins said.

She will be sentenced on Jan. 25 in Portland. The maximum sentence is 30 years but the details in the plea agreement are under seal for now.

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