NEWARK, N.J. – A New York real estate broker and a Bergen County, New Jersey, homeowner were sentenced today for their respective roles in a $3.5 million scheme to use false information and simultaneous loan applications at multiple banks to fraudulently obtain home equity lines of credit, a practice known as “shotgunning,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Michael Arroyo, 60, of Bronx, New York, was sentenced to 21 months in prison. He previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez in Newark federal court to an information charging him with conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
Rafael Popoteur, 67, of Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, was sentenced to three years of supervised release, including one year of house arrest. He previously pleaded guilty before Judge Vazquez to an information charging him with conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:
From 2012 through January 2014, Arroyo and others conspired to fraudulently obtain multiple home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) from banks on residential properties in New Jersey and New York, including a residential property on Havermeyer Avenue in the Bronx. In 2013, Arroyo and others transferred ownership of the property to an individual living at the property and his family friend.
Arroyo and others then applied, in the family friend’s name, for two HELOCs from two banks using the Havermeyer Avenue property as collateral. They hid from the lenders the fact that the property was either already subject to senior liens that had not yet been recorded, or that the same property was offered as collateral for a line of credit from another lender. The applications also falsely inflated the family friend’s income without his knowledge. In addition, the equity in the property was far less than the amount of the HELOC loans that Arroyo and others applied for.
The victim banks eventually issued loans to the family friend in excess of $500,000. After the victim banks deposited money into the family friend’s bank accounts, portions of the funds were disbursed to Arroyo and others. Eventually, the family friend defaulted on the two HELOC loans.
Popoteur was a client of Arroyo and another broker. From 2012 through January 2014, Popoteur and the two real estate brokers, and others, conspired to fraudulently obtain multiple HELOCs from banks on a residential property in New Jersey. To get the banks to extend lines of credit they would not have otherwise approved, Popoteur and the real estate brokers executed a quitclaim deed to transfer ownership of a Ridgefield Park, New Jersey property to Popoteur, who also lived at the property.
Popoteur and the real estate brokers then applied for three HELOCs from multiple banks using the Ridgefield Park, New Jersey property as collateral. As the conspirators had done previously, they hid from the lenders the fact that the properties offered as collateral were either already subject to senior liens that had not yet been recorded, or that the same property was offered as collateral for a line of credit from another lender. The applications also contained false information concerning Popoteur’s income, which was stated to be higher than his actual income. At the time the applications were made, the value of the Ridgefield Park, New Jersey property that was unencumbered by a mortgage was far less than the amount of the HELOC loans Popoteur and the others applied for.
The victim banks eventually issued loans to Popoteur in excess of $495,000. After the victim banks funded the HELOCs and deposited money into Popoteur’s bank accounts, Popoteur disbursed portions of it to the real estate brokers and others. In 2014, Popoteur defaulted on all three HELOC loans.
The overall scheme resulted in $3.5 million in losses to the victim banks.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Vazquez sentenced Arroyo five years of supervised release.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) – Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Steven Perez in Newark, and special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencings.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason S. Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory of the FHFA, Office of the Inspector General.