NEWARK, NJ – An Essex County, New Jersey man was sentenced today to 108 months in prison for conspiring to obtain mortgages to finance the sale of properties to unqualified buyers, fraud in securities by tricking a victim into investing more than $1.2 million in real estate businesses under false pretences and violating supervised release, US Attorney Vikas Khanna has said.
Maurice Bethea, 54, of Newark, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton to an information charging him with one count of bank fraud conspiracy and one count of securities fraud. Judge Wigenton handed down the sentence today in federal court in Newark.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From May 2009 to June 2012, Bethea and others recruited buyers to purchase multi-unit residential properties owned by Westinghouse Redevelopment Act Inc., a company controlled by Bethea. Bethea and its conspirators used false information about buyers’ assets and income to support fraudulent mortgage applications with a mortgage company. They falsified buyers’ loan application by increasing cash. Bethea and his conspirators transferred money from Westinghouse and other accounts to buyers’ bank accounts and forged documents to hide the transfers. Once the loans were approved, Bethea and his conspirators caused the funds to return to Westinghouse. Upon closing the deals, Bethea and his conspirators defrauded the mortgage company by concealing that Westinghouse and others, not the buyers, had provided the money to complete the deals. Ultimately, the buyers were unable to repay the loans, resulting in losses for several financial institutions.
From April 2017 to May 2018, Bethea tricked an individual into investing in Bethea’s real estate companies. Bethea told the victim that he would invest his money in businesses that Bethea owned that bought foreclosed homes, renovated the homes, and then resold the properties. Bethea falsely promised the victim that Bethea would pay him a 12% return on investment and $10,000 each time one of Bethea’s companies sold a property. In reality, Bethea took the victim’s $1.27 million investment, spent the money on other purposes, and then lied to the victim about Bethea’s failure to pay the monthly interest and the condition of properties under Bethea’s control.
The 108-month sentence handed down today includes a 21-month sentence for violating probation; Bethea was on probation for a prior conviction at the time he committed the counts to which he pleaded guilty in this case. In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Wigenton sentenced Bethea to five years of probation. Refund will be determined later.
United States Attorney Khanna credited special agents from the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Robert Manchak; US Department of Housing and Urban Development Special Agents, Office of Inspector General, Mid-Atlantic Region, under Special Agent in Charge Shawn Rice; and FBI special agents, under Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, the investigation leading to conviction.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew M. Trombly of the Cybercrime Unit and Ari B. Fontecchio of the Special Prosecutions Division in Newark, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin V. Di Gregory and Charlie L. Divine of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. , Office of the Inspector General.