Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ex-Real Estate Agent (Five Years), Pastor (33 Months) Get Jail Time For Running Scam That Recruited Church Members & Affiliates To Act As Unwitting Straw Buyers In Mortgage Scam; Cleric Fails To Self-Surrender, Currently Remains On The Lam

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Phoenix, Arizona):
  • [J]ulio Cesar Esquivel Reyes, 41, of Tolleson, Ariz. was sentenced [...] to five years in prison and ordered to pay $568,413 in restitution. Reyes previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

    “Mortgage fraud is a serious offense that has detrimental effects on the economy as a whole. The facts of this case are especially egregious because the defendants used their affiliation with a church to further the crime,” said U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo. “This sentence and that of Pastor Tovar send a solid message that those engaging in such actions will be prosecuted and incarcerated.”

    Reyes, a former realtor, and his co-conspirators embarked on an 11-year mortgage fraud scheme that resulted in losses just under $2 million. Among other things, the defendants provided false information to lenders and used straw buyers to perpetrate the scheme. During the course of the conspiracy, the defendants obtained at least 14 loans on 11 properties that totaled over $3 million and resulted in nine foreclosures.

    A portion of the scheme was co-led by Pastor Luis Antonio (“Tony”) Maldonado Tovar of Grupo Amistad church. By misrepresenting that the proceeds would be used to benefit the church, Tovar and Reyes recruited members and affiliates of Grupo Amistad church in Phoenix to act as straw buyers for a number of the fraudulent transactions.

    Tovar was previously sentenced to 33 months imprisonment for his role in the offense. He was ordered to self-surrender to serve his sentence on Jan. 20, 2015, but failed to appear and remains at large - any information on Tovar’s whereabouts should be reported to the U. S. Marshals Service at 1-800-336-0102 or

    Also sentenced in this case were Evangelina Gardner (14 months’ imprisonment) and Reyes’s father, Andres Esquivel (12 months’ imprisonment).

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