A real estate salesperson and three unlicensed individuals were fined $3.25 million for their roles in a multimillion-dollar scheme that used forged documents to deceive lenders into approving large loans for unqualified buyers.

In two other schemes, real estate salespeople defrauded lenders by inflating the market value and sale price of residential properties.

Another salesperson persuaded a client to lend her $30,000, which she never repaid.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce took action against 32 people and 21 companies engaged in improper real estate activity in the six months ending in March.

Following are the 10 people and six companies that were fined at least $20,000, according to orders made public by the Minnesota Commerce Department. In some cases a judge determined the parties engaged in improper activity; in others, the parties agreed to sanctions and fines based on the state’s allegations against them.

The first nine individuals and companies are barred from mortgage origination after collaborating in a mortgage-fraud scheme that involved 42 residential properties.

Wendy L. Ober, Hudson, Wis.; James D. Ober, Hudson, real estate salesperson license revoked; Mortgage Planners, Inc., St. Paul. The three share a $1.5 million fine.

Raul Pliego, Minneapolis, $750,000 fine.

Alejandro Sanchez, St. Paul; Accredited Financial, Inc., Hudson, Wis.; Eagle River Financial, LLC, Hudson; OFC Properties, Inc., Hudson; RP New Horizons, LLC, Hudson. The five share a $100,000 fine.

This equity-stripping scheme used a variety of forged documents to qualify “straw buyers” for loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration. Lenders were even supplied with a phone number to call to verify a loan applicant’s employment status, but the phone was answered by a conspirator who gave false information. Many of the properties ended up in foreclosure or short sale.

An administrative law judge found that Sanchez and the four companies engaged in unlicensed real estate and residential-loan work, made improper loans, acted on behalf of multiple parties without disclosing that fact and made false or misleading statements or allowed others to do so.

The Obers were convicted of racketeering in September and each was sentenced to 120 months in prison. They were ordered to pay restitution.

Pliego was convicted of racketeering in September and was sentenced to 48 months in prison.

Sanchez pleaded not guilty to racketeering. His jury trial is set for June 10.

Steven R. Carver, Hopkins, real estate broker and salesperson licenses revoked, notary public commission revoked, $185,000 fine. Carver & Associates Real Estate, Hopkins, $10,000 fine.

A judge found that Carver falsified loan documents by inflating the market value of at least 16 properties. After keeping an amount equal to the true market value, the seller would “loan” the rest of the proceeds to the buyer, who would use it for the down payment. The “seller-financed” loan often was forgiven.

Carver also conducted real estate activity during a period when he was unlicensed. He allowed two unlicensed people to operate Carver & Associates as a property management company. He failed to satisfy four civil judgments against him and gave false statements on a license application.

Envoy Mortgage, Ltd., Houston, Texas, $100,000 fine, $20,000 of which is stayed.

Envoy allegedly engaged in unlicensed mortgage loan origination activities in Minnesota.

Lynn M. Andrews, Inver Grove Heights, real estate salesperson license revoked, $70,000 fine.

The department alleged that Andrews participated in a scheme that used inflated sale prices to get larger loans for buyers. The loan money was used to cover the buyer’s down payment, pay sellers based on a lower sale price, and provide a large kickback of the remainder to buyers, Andrews and others.

In total, lenders funded at least $26 million in loans, and lost $9.6 million when most of the properties went into foreclosure, were sold in short sales or otherwise had loans in default.

Andrews must pay an additional $100,000 fine if she ever “engag[es] in any activity within the jurisdiction of the Commissioner.”

Jason E. Steffens, Eden Prairie, barred from mortgage origination and servicing for two years, $35,000 fine.

Steffens allegedly engaged in unlicensed mortgage origination work in the role of a foreclosure consultant.

The department alleged that Steffens improperly collected advance fees, failed to give refunds when “no meaningful assistance was provided,” failed to maintain trust accounts and have a surety bond in place.

Barbara Ann Zorn, Rosemount, real estate salesperson license revoked, $30,000 fine.

A judge ruled that Zorn persuaded a client to lend her $30,000 in order for Zorn to catch up on her mortgage payments. Zorn’s house went into foreclosure, and she failed to repay the loan. She had a $33,779 judgment against her for a credit card debt. She submitted a false and misleading application to the department.

Leslie J. Reynolds, Brooklyn Park, cease and desist unlicensed activity, $20,000 fine.

Reynolds allegedly sold numerous properties through contract for deed in a 12-month period without having a real estate license.

Stacy M. Roxberg, Mound, real estate salesperson license revoked, $20,000 fine.

Roxberg allegedly created and submitted a forged purchase agreement and earnest-money check and failed to pay her federal taxes. Half the fine will be vacated if she pays $10,000 by July 1.

 

Hard Data digs into public records and puts a spotlight on rule breakers in Minnesota. Contact me at jfriedmann@startribune.com.