TRENTON – Charges were announced today against a Kearny woman who allegedly orchestrated a scheme to steal millions of dollars by obtaining mortgage loans using false identities and counterfeit documents.
According to Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor Taylor, Genilza R. Nunes, 36, of Kearny, was arrested on March 9 by detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice Major Crimes Bureau as a result of an ongoing investigation into the conspiracy. She was charged by complaint with first-degree conspiracy, first-degree money laundering, second-degree securities fraud and second-degree theft by deception. She has been held in state custody since that time with bail set at $2 million.
Because the investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice is ongoing, the charges were not announced until today. Nunes was charged today with other defendants in a federal investigation into related activities announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI in Newark.
The state investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Major Crimes Bureau determined that Nunes and a number of co-conspirators allegedly were involved in a sophisticated, multi-million dollar mortgage loan fraud scheme operating in northern New Jersey, including Morris, Hudson, Union and Essex counties. The fraudulent enterprise allegedly included licensed and unlicensed professionals, including real estate agents, mortgage loan brokers, real estate appraisers, notaries, lawyers, straw buyers and counterfeit document makers.
Nunes allegedly was one of the people responsible for creating phony documents, including false identification cards, fraudulent financial documents, inflated real estate appraisals, altered real estate transfer documents, and fraudulent government documents, including U.S. passports and numerous state motor vehicle licenses. Nunes and others involved in the scheme allegedly used false names and the fraudulent documents to disguise their true identities, according to authorities.
Nunes and her co-conspirators allegedly defrauded numerous lending institutions of millions of dollars through what is known as a “short sale mortgage loan property flip scheme.” A “short sale” is a type of pre-foreclosure sale of real estate where the lender holding the mortgage agrees to permit the property to be sold for a price less then the amount due on the mortgage loan. Short sales have become more prevalent due to the recent economic downturn.
In this case, individuals involved in the alleged scheme were purchasing the properties as straw buyers, using false identities supported by counterfeit driver’s licenses, false financial records, and fictitious credit histories, authorities said. Through a series of fraudulent transactions, the short sale properties were then sold or “flipped” at inflated values derived from fraudulent appraiser reports. A second straw buyer applied for a mortgage loan on the inflated property and obtained the loan under a false identity, authorities said. The short sale property was then purchased with the loan proceeds, and, by design, the straw buyer made no payments on the loan, causing a loan default.
Because the straw buyer used a false identity, the lending institution was unable to locate the borrower. The difference between the sales price for the short sale transaction and the inflated loan obtained represented the net proceeds of the fraudulent scheme, authorities said. Typically Nunes and her co-conspirators obtained $100,000 to $300,000 per transaction, according to authorities.
The state alleges Nunes was responsible for cultivating and creating straw buyers, including real and fake persons, for the purpose of engaging in the scheme. The state has specifically alleged that Nunes engaged in fraudulent transactions involving five properties, with a total fraud of $2,152,800. However, it is believed that the scheme is much larger. The investigation is continuing and additional charges are anticipated.
The investigation is being conducted and coordinated by Detective Sgt. Louis A. Matirko and Deputy Attorney General Marysol Rosero of the Division of Criminal Justice Major Crimes Bureau.
First-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in state prison and a $200,000 fine, while second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a $150,000 fine. The first-degree money laundering charges carry a period of parole ineligibility equal to one-third to one-half of the prison sentence imposed and a fine of up to $500,000.
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