In Concord, New Hampshire, The Nashua Telegraph
- A second man accused of operating an elaborate mortgage scheme that fleeced banks out of millions of dollars and people out of their homes pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court this week. Former Nashua resident Walter Bressler, 42, now of Frisco, Texas, admitted this week in U.S. District Court to participating in the scheme and violating federal mail fraud laws, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
- Prosecutors charge that Bressler helped persuade financially troubled home-owners to sign over the deed to their property with the promise that the homeowners could stay on as tenants, pay rent for two years and then buy the property back at a prearranged price.
- Instead, the scheme participants resold the homes to “straw buyers,” often in amounts that exceeded the original owner’s loans, according to the U.S. Attorney. Some of the rent money was used to pay off the new mortgages, but the loans eventually went unpaid and the homes fell into foreclosure.
- The original owners had no “realistic opportunities” to buy their homes back because they had been stripped of equity and encumbered with large, defaulted loans, according to the U.S. Attorney.
- The first to admit to the scheme was Richard Winefield, of Nashua, a former Re/Max real-estate agent (See Sale Leaseback Peddler Starts "Singing" To NH Feds After Copping Guilty Plea In Equity Stripping, Foreclosure Rescue Conspiracy). Winefield has pleaded guilty to mail fraud and is due to be sentenced June 1.(1)
- Michael Prieto has been identified by prosecutors as a partner of Bressler’s and Winefield’s, but he hasn’t been charged. Prieto said it was no scheme; rather, a refinancing program that was intended to help struggling homeowners, which would have worked if they had paid their agreed-upon rent.
- “The agreement and the program … was not a scam,” Prieto previously told The Telegraph. “It was designed for its purpose, which was helping people pay off their debts, giving them breathing room, giving them an opportunity to stay in their homes for two years.” Prieto couldn’t be reached by phone or e-mail for this story.(2)
For more, see Former Nashua man admits to mortgage scheme.
Go here for Bressler's plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court.
(1) Congratulations goes to Winefield, who has proven himself to be the clear winner of the "race to the prosecutor's office", "bellying-up" to investigators and spilling his guts in an attempt to take down as many of his co-conspirators and "buy-out" of as much prison time as possible. See United States v. Moody, 206 F.3d 609, 617 (6th Cir. 2000) (Wiseman, J., concurring) for one Federal judge's observation, made in the context of drug conspiracy cases, involving the so-called "race to the courthouse/prosecutor's office" which seems equally suited to other types of major, multi-defendant felony cases:
- In practical terms, drug conspiracy cases have become a race to the courthouse. When a conspiracy is exposed by an arrest or execution of search warrants, soon-to-be defendants know that the first one to "belly up" and tell what he knows receives the best deal. The pressure is to bargain and bargain early, even if an indictment has not been filed.
Winefield's cooperation has presumably been of help to the Feds in taking down two other co-conspirators - there is apparently one left on the loose.(2) Prieto may simply be trying to enjoy his remaining days of freedom. Presumably, now that Winfield and Bressler, as well as a 3rd co-conspirator, Sadie Stanhope Ng, have copped guilty pleas, they have become very cooperative with prosecutors in helping them bag Prieto - especially if it results in a 'downward adjustment' in their expected prison sentences.
Sadie Stanhope Ng, 34, of Quincy, Mass., and formerly of Milford and Bedford, was part of the same conspiracy. See 2nd Suspect Agrees To Go Down In Granite State Sale Leaseback, Equity Stripping Foreclosure Rescue Scam.
Stanhope, Prieto and Bressler were previously sanctioned by state Banking Commissioner Peter Hildreth by a "cease and desist" order in 2007. The trio were fined $10,000, and they and their various limited liability companies were ordered to repay eight homeowners around the state (including two in Nashua) money gleaned from the sale of their properties. They also were ordered to stop being involved in mortgage brokerage or debt adjustment services in the state.
See Criminal Prosecutions Of Sale Leaseback Peddlers In Equity Stripping Foreclosure Rescue Deals for other incidents that led to criminal prosecutions in sale leaseback deals.