Federal prosecutors announced charges Friday against nine more defendants in the ongoing mortgage fraud case involving pricey homes in and around Union County.
The U.S. Attorneys Office for the Western District of North Carolina charged six people with mortgage fraud, bank bribery, money laundering and wire fraud.
Three more defendants, including two charged with fraud, and one for making false statements to a financial institution, agreed to plead guilty, according to an announcement from U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins.
Its the latest development in the long-running investigation known as Operation Wax House, one of the biggest mortgage fraud operations ever in the Charlotte area. Carried out mostly in 2006 and 2007, the case, involved more than $100 million in loans and at least 80 homes. Prosecutors have charged 50 defendants to date.
Those involved in the alleged fraud case agreed to buy a new house at its true price. Then buyers with fake assets would take a loan to buy the house at an inflated value generally $200,000 to $500,000 over the actual value. At closing, the participants would split the difference.
Defendants involved include promoters, mortgage brokers, lawyers, real estate agents, builders and buyers.
According to Friday court filings on the three pleading guilty, defendant Jeffrey Viegas, a luxury custom home builder, sold a home in Matthews at an inflated price to the mortgage fraud conspiracy. That allowed his co-conspirators to get loan proceeds for $498,750; of that, Viegas received more than $438,000, the court documents said.
Viegass attorney, Christopher Fialko, said Friday, Jeffs made some mistakes five years ago during the craziness of the real estate bubble. He has learned from that, and is a better businessman now.
Defendant Arketa T. Banks participated in the conspiracy as a buyer, according to court documents. Banks could not be reached for comment.
Defendant Bonnette Bradley was a mortgage broker in the fraud. Bradleys Charlotte attorney, Laura Cobb, was in court Friday and not immediately available for comment.
The six other defendants announced by the U.S. Department of Justice are:
• Chris T. Belin, 33, of Sumter, S.C., charged with mortgage fraud and money laundering. Belin participated as a real estate agent and promoter, authorities said.
• James E. Fink, 42, of Waxhaw, a builder charged with mortgage fraud and money laundering.
• Jimmy Hitchcock, 41, of Raleigh, charged with mortgage fraud, bank bribery and money laundering conspiracies. He was a promoter in the scheme, authorities said.
• Mitzi Jackson, 39, of Charlotte, a bank insider, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy and bank bribery.
• Michelle V. Mallard, also known as Michelle V. Crawford, 45, of Montgomery, Ala., an attorney, is charged with mortgage fraud and money laundering conspiracies and wire fraud.
• Coley Scagliarini, 38, of Charlotte, a mortgage broker, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.