ATLANTA — Atlanta real estate agent Eric Hill has been convicted of participating in a mortgage fraud scheme that obtained more than $21 million in fraudulent mortgage loans. Many fraudulent loans were insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), resulting in more than $850,000 payments in claims for mortgages that defaulted. Hill was also involved in a scheme to defraud his employer, a national real estate developer, with real estate commissions of more than $480,000.
“Eric Hill and his co-conspirators defrauded mortgage loan holders of millions of dollars, with taxpayers suffering a significant loss,” said US Attorney Kurt R Erskine. “We will vigorously pursue perpetrators of mortgage fraud and enrich themselves at the expense of financial institutions and government programs that secure or guarantee loans.”
“While it is easy to dismiss financial fraud cases as victimless crimes because of their lack of violence, there is real harm to our economy and our taxpayers,” said Chris Hacker, the special agent in charge of the FBI Atlanta. “This ruling sends a message that the FBI will act with determination to protect American citizens and the real estate market from fraudsters who disrupt our economy with deception for personal gain.”
“Eric Hill engaged in premeditated criminal acts with the sole aim of enriching himself, regardless of the millions of American homebuyers who depend on federal housing programs to secure their mortgages,” said Special Agent Wyatt Accord in the Office of the Inspector General in charge of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. His fraudulent actions harm not only the financial integrity of the FHA, but also our neighbors and the local communities that fall victim to these schemes.
“The Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of the Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) is committed to holding accountable those who commit housing and mortgage market fraud and exploit the resources of government-sponsored institutions regulated by FHFA. We are proud of our partnership with HUD-OIG, the FBI, and the Office of the Attorney General. Americans for the northern region of Georgia in this case,” said Edwin S. Bonanno, Special Agent in Charge, FHFA-OIG, Southeast Region.
According to Acting US Representative Erskine, the charges and other information presented in court: The defendants participated in a scheme in which home buyers and real estate agents submitted fraudulent loan applications to induce mortgage lenders to finance mortgages. Eric Hill and Robert Kelsky were real estate agents representing a major home builder nationwide. Hill and Kelske have helped more than 100 homebuyers who were looking to buy a home, but who were ineligible for a mortgage, commit fraud. The agents instructed homebuyers on the type of assets they would need to claim to have in the bank, and what kind of work and income they would have to provide on their mortgage applications.
Hill and Kelsek then coordinated with several document makers, including defendants Fouzia Connor and Stephanie Hogan, who altered homebuyers’ bank statements to inflate their assets and created bank entries that reflected fake direct deposits from the estate agent’s chosen employer. The document manufacturers also created fake earnings statements that match direct deposit entries to show that the home buyer was working and earning income from a fake business owner. Other participants in the scheme then acted as job investigators and answered phone calls or emails from lenders to incorrectly verify the homebuyers’ work. Defendants Jerrod Little, Renee Little, Morris Lawson, Todd Taylor, Paige McDaniel and Donald Fontano served as recruitment investigators. Hill and Kelske coordinated the creation and submission of misinformation so that the lenders’ lies were consistent.
In another aspect of the scheme, Hill and Kelsky conspired with real estate agents Anthony Richard and Cefus Chapman, who falsely claimed to represent homebuyers as selling agents, in order to obtain commissions from home sales. In fact, these real estate agents have never met the homebuyers they claim to represent. To avoid detection, agents often notify closing attorneys that they will not be available to close the house and send wired instructions to receive their commissions. When the so-called selling agents received their unearned commissions, they returned the majority of the commissions to Hill or Kelske to enable them to add them to the deal, while retaining a small stake for their role in the scheme.
Eric Hill, 52, of Tyron, Georgia, was sentenced to two years and six months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Hill was found guilty of these charges on September 21, 2020, after pleading guilty.
In addition to Hill, defendants Donald Fontenot, Maurice Lawson, Stephanie Hogan, Jerrod Little, Renee Little, Paige McDaniel, Fouzia Connor and Anthony Richard were also sentenced for their part in the conspiracies.
- Todd Taylor has pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 3, 2022.
- Robert Kelsky has also pleaded guilty and is due to be sentenced on April 14, 2022.
- Cefus Chapman was convicted at trial and is scheduled to be sentenced on February 10, 2022.
The case was investigated by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of the Inspector General of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Assistant US Attorney David A. O’Neill and Alison B.
For more information, please contact the US Attorney’s Office of Public Affairs at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address of the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.