Kenai Peninsula real estate agents reacted Wednesday with strong words and public assurances in the wake of U.S. Grand Jury fraud indictments handed down Dec. 13 against nine individuals and one corporation in the Anchorage real estate market.
According to U.S. Attorney Nelson P. Cohen, the accused allegedly engaged in "a widespread, three-year scheme" cheating 13 banks and home loan mortgage companies. In all, 57 different loan transactions netted more than $1.7 million in profits and cost financial institutions over $1 million to date, Cohen said in a press release.
In all, 64 counts were handed down against the nine individuals and Alaska State Mortgage Company Inc. of Anchorage. All but two were from Anchorage. One currently lives in Florida, and another lives in Chugiak.
Cohen said the case is the "largest mortgage fraud scheme" ever prosecuted in Alaska. Special agents of the FBI conducted the investigation.
"We deplore any acts in the marketplace that deny or jeopardize the rights of homeowners and home buyers to participate in the American Dream," said Adeena Wilcox, president of the Kenai Peninsula Association of Realtors, reiterating a written response to initial news articles from the Alaska Association of Realtors released Tuesday.
"It is with surprise and sadness that we learn that some real estate professionals are alleged to have committed wrongdoing in the housing industry."
Calling realtors "hardworking members of the Alaska community" and "the leading advocates for private property rights and homeownership in the United States," Wilcox said law-abiding realtors were dedicated to a high degree of professionalism and subscribed to a strict code of ethics.
In a similar vein, realtors from the lower Kenai Peninsula also issued a statement.
"We do want the public to know that we wholeheartedly deplore the type of activity that took place and are in full support of investigations of fraud," said Joyce Porte, president of the Kachemak Board of Realtors. "As far as we know, this investigation has not touched our community in the south Kenai Peninsula area."
In the press release, Cohen noted the fraud involved professionals from all areas of the real estate industry, and included fraudulent loans, straw party purchasers, falsifying down payments, inflating appraisals, falsifying title documents to conceal the absence of real down payments, and concealing investment purchases as purchases of primary residences.
In one scheme, several of those indicted conspired to arrange purchase of 13 separate properties on the same day, all fraudulently listed as purchases of one person's primary residence.
Indicted were Lance Lockard, 34, of Florida, Anchorage residents Gary Paterna, 62, Charles Carlson, 74, Jonathan Ruf, 33, Keith Facer, 41, Don Murray, 35, Cerise Sanders, 31, Susan McCready, 41, Chugiak resident Holli Stroud, 30, along with Alaska State Mortgage Company Inc., of Anchorage.
McCready is listed as ASMC's Chief Executive Officer on the company website.
Hal Spence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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