BOSTON – A Wakefield man was sentenced today in federal court in Boston for a mortgage fraud scheme involving at least two dozen fraudulent loan transactions and $4.3 million in losses to lenders.
Joseph Bates III, 42, was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release. In October 2018, Bates pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, and two counts of bank fraud. Bates was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,238,354 and forfeiture of $700,000.
Bates was originally charged in September 2018 along with co-defendants George Kritopoulos and David Plunkett. In October 2022, Kritopoulos was sentenced to four years in prison and two years of supervised release after being convicted by a federal jury of one count of conspiracy, two counts of wire fraud, six counts of bank fraud, one count of aiding the preparation of a false income tax return and one count of obstruction of justice. In February 2019, Plunkett pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of aiding in the submission of false tax returns and is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 9, 2023.
From 2006 through 2015, Bates, Kritopoulos and others engaged in a scheme to defraud banks and other financial institutions by causing false information to be submitted to those institutions on behalf of borrowers – people recruited to purchase properties – located primarily in Salem, Mass. The properties were usually multi-family buildings with two-to-four units, which the co-conspirators then converted into condominiums. Kritopoulos recruited new borrowers to purchase the individual condominium units. Together, Kritopoulos and Bates created and provided false documents to defraud lenders for financing the purchases. Kritopoulos also recruited Plunkett to prepare false tax returns in support of the fraud scheme.
The false information submitted to lenders included, among other things, representations concerning the borrowers’ employment, income, assets and intent to occupy the property. Specifically, the false employment information included representations that borrowers were employed by entities that were, in fact, shell companies “owned” by Kritopoulos and were used to advance the fraudulent scheme. The employment information also included false representations about the income that the borrowers received from the entities, when the borrowers actually received little or no income from them. Furthermore, the income asserted on the borrowers’ loan applications substantially overstated their true income. The false information also included representations that the recruited borrowers intended to live in the properties that they were purchasing, when they did not intend to do so. Plunkett assisted the scheme by preparing tax returns for some of the borrowers that contained false and inflated income. Some of those tax returns were submitted to lenders in support of the fraudulent loan applications.
Because the borrowers did not have the financial ability to repay the loans, in all but two instances among 21 properties, they defaulted on their loan payments, resulting in foreclosures and losses to the lenders.
United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Joleen D. Simpson, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, Boston Office; and Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Northeastern Regional Office made the announcement today. Valuable assistance was provided by the Salem Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Victor A. Wild, of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit, and Brian M. LaMacchia, of Rollins’ Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit prosecuted the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol Head, Chief of Rollins’ Asset Recovery Unit, is handling the forfeiture and restitution aspects of the case.