Jury indicts four more in mortgage fraud probe

June 19, 2008|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,sun reporter

GREENBELT - A widespread probe of mortgage fraud resulted yesterday in grand jury indictments against four Maryland residents, less than a week after federal prosecutors here accused eight other people of bilking homeowners and banks of more than $35 million in an unrelated mortgage scheme.

In the latest indictments, Cheryl Brooke, 51, and Michael K. Lewis, 56, of Upper Marlboro; his brother, Earnest Lewis, 59, of Takoma Park; and Winston Thomas, 42, of New Carrollton, are accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud in connection with a scheme in which they offered to help homeowners stave off foreclosure. Instead, they defrauded mortgage lenders and the homeowners, the 12-count indictment says.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said the indictment was unsealed yesterday after the defendants' arrests. It says that in 2004, the accused began airing television advertisements that targeted financially vulnerable individuals, offering them help in improving their credit, saving their homes from foreclosure and assisting them in case of bankruptcy. Instead, the opposite occurred, the document says, with the defendants first acquiring control of the homes and then failing to pay mortgages on them, causing the original owners to default.

The indictment, which says the defendants distributed among themselves the loans they obtained for the properties, seeks forfeiture of $2.9 million. If convicted, the defendants could each face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy counts and for each of the nine mail fraud counts. Michael K. Lewis and Brooke also could face a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 if convicted of bankruptcy fraud.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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