A former Bank of America short-sale negotiator has been sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $5.7 million in restitution for his role in a fraud scheme in which prosecutors said he accepted bribes to sign off on the sale of at least nine homes to flippers at prices far below their market value.
Kevin Lauricella, 29, of Thousand Oaks, will also forfeit his own home, which was purchased with some of the bribe money, prosecutors said.
Bank of America said Lauricella was fired in 2011, and that it has been cooperating with an FBI investigation.
Three other defendants signed off on plea agreements that suggest such short-sale property flopping was widespread, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“It’s part of a large, ongoing investigation,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ranee Katzenstein told the Times. “There are a large number of related cases.”
Katzenstein works out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, which covers seven counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura.
In a separate case, prosecutors with the office announced in March that former San Luis Obispo-based broker Timothy William Barnes, 37, faced up to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of bank fraud for a scheme in which he bought short-sale properties and resold them at higher prices — in many cases, to buyers that he’d already lined up. Barnes allegedly minimized the value of the homes in documents he submitted to banks and concealed higher offers he had already received.
Lauricella, who worked in the short-sale department of Bank of America’s Simi Valley office in 2010 and 2011, signed off on short sales that he was not authorized to approve at sales prices “far below the fair market value,” prosecutors said.
The fraudulent short sales resulted in at least $5.7 million in losses to the bank, and also clouded the title on the properties, resulting in expensive litigation for innocent parties, including individuals who later purchased the homes, prosecutors said.
Lauricella pleaded guilty in January to receiving bribes and making false entries in the bank’s books and records, both felonies. The case against Lauricella is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In a 2011 analysis of 450,000 short-sale transactions, property and loan data aggregator CoreLogic estimated that lenders were signing off on deals that resulted in unnecessary losses on short sales totaling $375 million a year.
CoreLogic conducts a monitoring program designed to help lenders detect short-sale “property flops” by alerting them when there’s more than one loan application pending on the same property.