A Red Bank attorney has admitted to bilking financial institutions out of more than $1 million in a series of mortgage frauds and has forfeited her license.
Maeble Hairston, 57, pleaded guilty to second-degree racketeering by scheming with others to secure mortgage loans fraudulently and make off with the proceeds, Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced on Monday.
Hairston and her co-conspirators bought foreclosed or preforeclosure residential properties through sheriffs’ sales or short sales, Chiesa said. Then they would sell the homes to straw buyers, who were told they could purchase them with no down payment as investment properties and collect rental income.
In order to obtain loans for the transactions — for which the buyers ordinarily would not qualify — Hairston and the others falsified mortgage applications, employment information and earnings and bank statements.
The lenders issued Federal Housing Authority-insured mortgages based on purchase prices well above what Hairston and the co-conspirators paid to obtain the distressed properties.
In some cases, the loan actually was simultaneous with the discounted sheriff’s sale or short-sale purchase, or the schemers used the loan proceeds in the transactions, Chiesa said.
Hairston or a different settlement agent then would disburse the remainder of the borrowed funds among the co-conspirators and file fraudulent statements reflecting required payments by the straw buyer at closing and proper distribution of the loan.
Most of the homes ended up in foreclosure. “The financial institutions have been unable to recoup their loans, because they were based on home values that were grossly inflated as part of the scheme,” Chiesa said.
In all, Hairston admitted to defrauding lenders in connection with four loans totaling $1.052 million: A $255,983 loan for an Irvington property issued in July 2008, and loans of $286,222, $338,751 and $177,848 for Newark properties in November 2008, September 2009 and July 2010, respectively.
The Essex County Inspector General initiated investigation of the scheme after it discovered one fraudulent loan application made by a county Division of Welfare employee, Ijeoma Okoh, 34, of Newark. She admitted submitting fraudulent employment documents in applying for a $357,000 loan from Bank of America to buy a Newark property. She was sentenced to two years’ probation and was required to forfeit her job.
Supervising Deputy Attorney General Mark Eliades, who heads the Gangs and Organized Crime Bureau, handled the investigation, which continues. Charges against the co-conspirators are expected, Chiesa said.
Hairston was prosecuted in Morris County, where some of the lenders are based.
Pleading guilty before Superior Court Judge Thomas Manahan, Hairston agreed to surrender her law license in New Jersey and in any other jurisdiction.
The matter was referred to the Office of Attorney Ethics on Tuesday, Chiesa’s spokesman Peter Aseltine said.
Hairston’s sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 7 before Manahan. Prosecutors will recommend a prison term of five to seven years.
Hairston did not return a call to her office, nor did her lawyer, Asbury Park solo James Butler Jr. There is no listed number for Hairston’s Red Bank home.
Hairston, admitted in 1990, has no disciplinary history or any pending formal complaints, according to the OAE.
Since 2008, Hairston was placed on the ineligible list several times for failing to pay annual attorney registration fees, most recently by a Supreme Court order dated Sept. 27, 2010.