December 22, 2011 [The Plain Dealer]
CLEVELAND, Ohio -Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Attorney General’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission (OOCIC), and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason today announced that five defendants pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud crimes covering more than 500 real estate transactions totaling $50 million, involving $44 million in fraudulent loans, and earning $31 million in profits.
The charges were filed in August of 2009, after an 18-month investigation conducted by the Cuyahoga County Mortgage Task Force, which operates under the authorization of the Attorney General’s OOCIC.
“Today’s court action proves that criminals who defraud people in this state will not get away with their devious schemes,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “We will continue to go after those who commit mortgage fraud, using the power of local, state, and federal law enforcement. The 18-month investigation by the Cuyahoga County Mortgage Task Force, which operates under the Attorney General’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, unearthed the evidence, linked the lies, and connected the dots of deception.”
Today, Uri Gofman, 39, of Beachwood, pleaded guilty to eleven (11) counts including; one (1) count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, one (1) count of theft, two (2) counts of money laundering, one (1) count of telecommunications fraud, and six (6) counts of tampering with records. Gofman orchestrated one of the nation’s largest mortgage fraud cases by enlisting family, friends and others to invest in his real estate company, Real Asset Fund, with promise of profit. Gofman’s enterprise began with seed money from an investor who transferred funds from an Eastern European bank account in Latvia. Gofman’s typical scheme involved setting up straw buyers to purchase homes; falsely claiming home improvements were performed or inflated the value of improvements on houses in order to refinance them; and then selling houses to unqualified buyers with assistance of real estate agents, mortgage brokers, and title companies. Gofman and others defrauded lenders through loan application fraud, down payment fraud, and loan distribution fraud. Gofman agreed to pay $1 million in restitution, forfeit $600,000 in seized cash, forfeit 43 houses valued at $4.1 million in real estate to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, and cooperate in future prosecutions. Gofman will be sentenced to 8.25 years on February 1, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. in Cuyahoga County Judge Daniel Gaul’s courtroom.
Anthony Capuozzo, 41, of Concord, pleaded guilty to ten (10) counts including; one (1) count of attempted engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, two (2) counts of money laundering, six (6) counts of tampering with records, and (1) count of telecommunications fraud. Capouzzo owned, operated, and controlled Family Title. Capouzzo executed a fake down payment scheme by providing lenders with false settlement statements misleading lenders into believing that the buyer was making the down payment when in reality, the buyer was not. Capouzzo was sentenced today to 1 year in prison consecutive to the 26 month federal sentence he has already received, which Capouzzo beings serving January 10, 2012.
The Real Asset Fund and Karka, Inc. were Gofman’s business entities which owned or controlled the real estate. Clear Choice Realty, also owned by Gofman, sold the real estate. The Real Asset Fund pleaded guilty to one (1) count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and one (1) count of theft, Clear Choice Realty pleaded guilty to one (1) count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and two (2) counts of receiving stolen property, and Karka, Inc. pleaded guilty to one (1) count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, one (1) count of theft, and three (3) counts of money laundering.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason said, “These criminals are mortgage fraud predators and deserve every year in prison that they receive. While these hoodlums were illegally making money they were devastating our neighborhoods with foreclosures.”
This scheme resulted in 358 of 453 homes going into foreclosure in the Cleveland-area.