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Seven South Florida bankers were among 15 people charged today with participating in a $10 million scheme to defraud banks through bogus commercial loans and lines of credits. The federal defendants include a loan broker, seven bank officers and seven customers. “They were taking bribes so they would push these false loans through,” U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer told the Daily Business Review. “The loan applications were fraught with fraudulent tax returns, pay stubs, income statements.” Ferrer, in a statement issued after a news conference, said the cases are a variation on mortgage fraud. “Instead of home mortgages, this ring of defendants with the help of corrupt bankers used the same tactics to fraudulently obtain small business loans and lines of credit,” he said. The cases offer further proof that the FBI is using undercover operations to infiltrate white-collar crime. The seven bankers charged by information were: Daniel Agudelo and Alexander Reyes of Fifth Third Bank; Christopher Brooks, an assistant vice president at Bank of America; Macario Deguzman, a vice president at Regions Bank and AmTrust Bank; William Hebert, a vice president at HSBC Bank; David McGuire at Wachovia; and David Ramoy, a banking officer at Floridian Community Bank. “Today’s case highlights a growing and disturbing trend of the illegal use of small business lines of credit to further criminal activity,” said John V. Gillies, FBI chief in South Florida. The charges were the culmination of a two-year investigation into the activities of Palm Beach Business Consultants, a Boca Raton loan brokerage. The firm’s operator, Frank Santa, is among those charged. McGuire, Hebert and Ramoy allegedly accepted bribes of $1,000 to $10,000 from Santa or an undercover agent in return for pushing through fraudulent loans or providing false deposit verifications. Prosecutors also allege bankers McGuire, Agudelo, Reyes, Hebert and Ramoy agreed to launder money represented by an undercover agent to be drug proceeds. John Pacenti can be reached at (305) 347-6638.

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