Four plead guilty in mortgage fraud case

Parish Marketing and Development Corporation (PMDC) and its owners pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court last week to conspiring to commit mortgage fraud and money laundering charges arising from the scheme involving approximately 200 residences and approximately $100 million in loan proceeds. Most of the loans were for houses Parish built in New Prague, Elko New Market and Lonsdale.

PMDC and its owners acknowledged obtaining more than $25 million for the company through the scheme.

In addition to the corporation, Michael Alan Parish, 62, his wife Ardith Ann Parish, 61, and their son-in-law Christopher David Troup, 39, all of Eagan, appeared before Judge Ann D. Montgomery and pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy.

According to their pleas, all four defendants acknowledged participation in the mortgage fraud scheme, by which PMDC utilized straw buyers to purchase approximately 200 properties built by the corporation. The scheme obtained nearly $100 million in loan proceeds, with PMDC receiving more than $25 million from the proceeds.

Four others had already pleaded guilty on related charges. On September 20, 2007, Melissa Smith of Ohio appeared in federal court and pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mortgage fraud. She admitted to acting as a straw buyer for the scheme, purchasing 46 residences for approximately $20 million from October, 2004, through January, 2007.

On September 5, 2007, Ramiz Yousef Saadeh, former US Bank officer, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mortgage fraud. Saadeh admitted producing false verifications of deposit to the homebuilder on behalf of straw buyers.

On October 11, Donald Todd Yeager of Oklahoma pleaded guilty to honest services fraud. Among other things, he admitted providing misleading and inflated appraisals to the homebuilder.

On September 7, Kristopher Kenton Robbins, a closing agent and licensed notary public, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mortgage fraud. Among other things, he admitted allowing signatures of the straw buyers to be signed by others.

In addition to the mortgage fraud conspiracy count, PMDC, Michael Parish and Troup pleaded guilty to a money laundering count.

According to the terms of the plea agreements, the defendants will be sentenced based on the determinations made by the court regarding the full extent of the loss, the number of victims and the defendants' respective roles in the scheme. The government contends the scheme may have resulted in a loss of as much as $50 million (depending on the value of the residences) and has 50 or more victims.

According to the plea agreements, depending on determinations made by the court, federal guidelines call for a sentence of between 11 and 14 years in prison for Michael Parish, nine to 11 years for Troup and five years for Ardith Parish, who was deemed to be a minor participant.

The government will also seek an order of full restitution for victims of the fraud.

The US Attorneys office noted that the investigation has resulted in guilty pleas from the home builder and seven individuals over the past eight weeks. The case progressed extremely rapidly in an effort to address the impact of the fraud on the community. The government and defendants indicated they would jointly seek the appointment of a receiver to assist in the maximization of the value of the properties and PMDC's assets so as to minimize the impact on the community and the losses to the victims.

The case is the result of an investigation by the Federal Mortgage Fraud Task Force, including the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The investigation was assisted by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Scott, Rice and Le Sueur county sheriff's offices and the New Prague Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Dixon.

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