December 21, 2011 [WOIO]
County Prosecutor Bill Mason and the Cuyahoga County Mortgage Fraud Task Force announced five defendants plead guilty to mortgage fraud crimes covering over 500 real estate transactions totaling $50 million, $44 million in fraudulent loans and $31 million in profits.
Tuesday, Uri Gofman, 39, of Beachwood, plead guilty to eleven counts including; one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, one count of theft, two counts of money laundering, one count of telecommunications fraud, and six 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 dollars 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 am in Judge Daniel Gaul’s courtroom.
Anthony Capuozzo, 41, of Concord, plead guilty to ten counts including; one count of attempted engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, two counts of money laundering, six counts of tampering with records, and 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 they were in fact not. Capouzzo was sentenced today to 1 year in prison consecutive to the 26 month federal sentence he has already received which he will begin to serve 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 which was also owned by Gofman sold the real estate. The Real Asset Fund plead guilty to one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and one count of theft, Clear Choice Realty plead guilty to one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and two counts of receiving stolen property, and Karka, Inc. plead guilty to one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, one count of theft, and three 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.”
358 of the 453 houses fell into foreclosure. There were 22 Cuyahoga County communities affected by Gofman’s schemes, they include: 239 houses in Cleveland, 74 houses in Cleveland Heights, 33 houses in Maple Heights, 18 houses in Euclid, 14 houses in University Heights, 13 houses in East Cleveland, 12 houses in Garfield Heights, 12 houses in Shaker Heights, 8 houses in Lakewood, 7 houses in South Euclid, 5 houses in Lyndhurst, 3 houses in Beachwood, 3 houses in Bedford Heights, 2 houses in Bedford, 2 houses in Warrensville Heights, 2 houses in Mayfield Heights, 1 house in Oakwood, 1 house in Westlake, 1 house in Olmsted Township, 1 house in Strongsville, 1 house in Glenwillow, and 1 house in Highland Heights.
“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.”
Since January 2007, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office has indicted 380 defendants which has resulted in over $131 million in fraudulent loans for 1,015 houses located in 29 communities in Cuyahoga County and 6 communities located outside of Cuyahoga County.
The Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office formed this Task Force in December 2007. The Task Force is comprised of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
This investigation was led by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Postal Inspectors, Beachwood Police Department, Cleveland Heights Police Department, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Pepper Pike Police Department.