Appearing before U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, an Escondido man pleaded guilty July 5 to one count of lying to IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents who were investigating a mortgage fraud and money laundering scheme that involved the 2007 purchases of two properties located in Joshua Tree.
Arturo Gonzalez, 48, of Escondido, was accused in a March 2011 indictment of obstruction of official proceedings and making false statements to federal investigators.
According to the indictment, the fraudulent mortgages were obtained in the name of the defendant. During the course of the investigation, the IRS-CI and ICE special agents interviewed Gonzalez to discuss his role in the real estate purchases. The special agents interviewing Gonzalez sought to identify the main participants in the fraud scheme and how the scheme operated.
Preventing Mortgage Fraud
Kathleen Bianco, author of a CCH Report, "Money Laundering and Mortgage Fraud: The Growth of a Merging Industry," recommends filing Form 4506T, which verifies an individual's tax information, at the beginning of the mortgage loan process, rather than at the closing of the loan. This would help to protect financial institutions from the threat of money laundering and fraud.
According to the plea agreement, in an interview with the special agents on January 7, 2010, Gonzalez denied any involvement in the Joshua Tree real estate purchases. Gonzalez stated that he did not authorize anyone to use his identity to purchase property. Gonzalez further stated that he did not sign the deed of trust, and he never appeared before the notary to sign and notarize the deed of trust.
Gonzalez later admitted that he lied in his statements to the IRS-CI and ICE special agents. According to the plea agreement, Gonzalez was involved in the purchase of the two properties. Gonzalez authorized others to use his identity and execute a purchase agreement in his name to purchase property. Further, Gonzalez personally appeared before a notary public and signed a deed of trust transferring title in the property to a commercial lender. During his appearance before the notary, Gonzalez put his signature and fingerprint in the notary's book.
As a result of his guilty plea, Gonzalez faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison if he does not successfully complete the federal court's alternative sentencing program. His next hearing date is July 13, 2012.
Source: IRS Criminal Investigation, Los Angeles Field Office News Release