HOUSTON—Today, a jury sitting in United States District Judge Sim Lake’s Courtroom found Vincent Wallace Aldridge, former fee attorney for First Southwestern Title Company and attorney for Aldridge and Associates, along with Tori Elyse Aldridge, a former employee of First Southwestern Title Company and Gilbert Barry Isgar, a co-owner of Waterford Homes, guilty of charges of wire fraud and money laundering in a scheme to defraud residential mortgage lenders of more than $3.7 million in loans in connection with home purchases in the Houston area, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today along with FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard C. Powers and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) Special Agent in Charge Rodney E. Clarke.
Vincent Aldridge, 45, and Tori Aldridge, 32, both of Fresno, Texas (right outside of Houston), were found guilty of 19 counts which included conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering charges. Isgar, 50, of Katy, Texas, was found guilty of 13 counts which included conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Both of the Aldridges and Isgar conspired to devise and execute a scheme during 2004 and 2005 to receive proceeds from real estate transactions based upon materially fraudulent information that was intentionally supplied to at least four lending institutions as the basis for an agreement between the lending institutions and borrowers. Vincent Aldridge lured borrowers by representing the scheme as an investment opportunity. For the use of their credit to obtain mortgage loans, the borrowers were promised $10,000 after the closing of their respective property and that the property would be sold after a year for a profit. Once a borrower agreed to the deal, then Vincent Aldridge and Tori Aldridge, acting as an escrow officer and as a loan processor, met with the borrower to obtain the necessary personal identifying information to complete the borrower’s lending package. Prior to the Aldridges submitting the lending packages to the lending institutions, the Aldridges modified the lending package to enhance the borrower’s ability to qualify for the requested loan. These enhancements included fraudulently overstating the borrower’s income, misrepresenting the borrower’s principal residence as rental property and misrepresenting the purchase property as the principal residence. The mortgage loans totaled approximately $3,700,000. Each property sold in amounts between $344,000 and $360,000 and were funded to First Southwestern Title Company by wire.
As a part of the scheme, Isgar, co-owner of Waterford Custom Homes, inflated the sales price of the properties to be purchased by the aforementioned recruited borrowers. As a part of the agreement between the Aldridges and Isgar, disbursement authorizations for attorney’s fees and additional contractor fees on brand new homes for amounts of $60,000 to more than $80,000 were signed by Isgar. These documents were provided to First Southwestern Title, which was controlled by the Aldridges. These disbursement authorizations were not provided to the lender and were not listed on the HUD Settlement Statement. The disbursements for additional attorney’s fees were in addition to the attorney’s fees stated on the attorney fee line in HUD Settlement Statement.
Once the loans were funded to the title company, the Aldridges caused several checks to be drawn on the account of the title company, each totaling amounts of $60,000 to more than $80,000, to Aldridge & Associates IOLTA bank account. The checks totaled approximately $442,089 and represented a portion of the illicit proceeds obtained through the mortgage fraud scheme. On one occasion, Isgar wired approximately $81,000 back to Vincent Aldridge’s account after he received the funds from the closing. The total amount of the money laundering was more than $500,000.
United States District Judge Sim Lake pronounced the defendants guilty and reset the case for sentencing on May 25, 2011, at 2:00 p.m. All of the defendants were permitted to remain on bond pending their sentencing hearings.
The maximum penalty for each wire fraud count is 20 years in prison as well as substantial fines. The maximum penalty for each money laundering count is 10 years in prison. A conviction for money laundering carries the most significant fine of $250,000 or twice the amount of the criminally derived property, whichever is greater.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the FBI and IRS-CI. Assistant United States Attorneys Jennifer Lowery and Andrew Leuchtmann are prosecuting the case.