Mortgage Attorney Pleads Guilty in Fraud Scheme After Four Days of Trial

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Pittsburgh, PA – January 8, 2010 – (RealEstateRama) — Acting United States Attorney Robert S. Cessar announced today, January 8, 2010, that Robert Danenberg, a resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of Wire Fraud Conspiracy in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme.

Danenberg, age 45, pleaded guilty to one count before United States District Judge Donetta Ambrose.

In connection with the guilty plea, Assistant United States Attorney Brendan T. Conway advised the court that Danenberg is an attorney who specialized in closing real estate transactions. He participated in a mortgage fraud conspiracy in which a co-conspirator recruited buyers to purchase properties at fraudulently elevated prices and financed through fraudulently obtained loans. Danenberg’s role in the conspiracy was to close the fraudulent loans, and the closings themselves were fraudulent in two primary respects. First, the closings required the borrowers to bring their own certified funds to the closings to make the down payments associated with the purchase. The borrowers, however, did not have sufficient funds to make the down payments and were often getting cash back at the closings. The down payments were paid by the sellers, the mortgage broker, and on several occasions, by Danenberg himself. The closings were also fraudulent in that the settlement statements reflected payments to contractors for work purportedly already done on the properties serving as collateral for the loans. In fact, however, as Danenberg well knew, those payments were kickbacks to participants in the conspiracy.

In total, Danenberg closed approximately 70 fraudulent loans totaling in excess of $5,000,000 of loan proceeds. Danenberg pleaded guilty after four days of trial.

Judge Ambrose scheduled sentencing for May 7, 2010. The law provides for a total sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. As part of his plea agreement, Danenberg agreed to forfeit another $250,000. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

The Mortgage Fraud Task Force conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Danenberg. The Mortgage Fraud Task Force is comprised of investigators from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and others involved in the mortgage industry. Federal law enforcement agencies participating in the Mortgage Task Force include the United States Secret Service; Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General; and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Other Mortgage Fraud Task Force members include the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office; the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, Bureau of Consumer Protection; the Pennsylvania Department of Banking; the Pennsylvania Department of State, Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation; and the United States Trustee’s Office.

Mortgage industry members with knowledge of fraudulent activity are encouraged to call the Mortgage Fraud Task Force at (412) 894-7550. Consumers are encouraged to report suspected mortgage fraud by calling the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 441-2555.

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