Five people were indicted early this month in South Carolina on federal charges of conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with alleged schemes said to have defrauded two lenders out of $875,000, media reports said.

Federal prosecutors in Charleston, S.C., charged five people with criminal fraud, including an attorney and the owner of a local real estate agency, accusing them of orchestrating home-buying schemes that defrauded two mortgage lenders, the Charleston, S.C., Post & Courier reported.

Named in the lawsuit were North Charleston real estate attorney Jeffrey T. Spell; Anne Dodson, owner of Summerville-based Associated Realtors; Samantha Watford, vice president of AAA Mortgage and Direct Mortgage in West Ashley; Tom Cannon, a former loan originator for the two mortgage firms; and Ralph Miller, media accounts said.

If convicted, the members of the alleged ring each face a maximum fine of $250,000 and up to five years in prison.

This indictment centers on four real estate deals in Charleston’s upper peninsula – two involving the same Cypress Street house and the others involving two Sumter Street residences, reports said.

The amount of the loans involved in the transactions totaled $875,000 from two lenders: WMC Mortgage Corp. and Fieldstone Mortgage Co., according to reports.

Of that total, participants allegedly used phony home-repair invoices and other fraudulent means to skim off and split up at least $286,000, mostly for personal use, prosecutors said in the legal papers, according to reports.

The alleged conspiracy, which included an undisclosed number of other unidentified participants, was said to have taken place between January 2002 and January 2004, according to the indictment.

One instance involved an unnamed relative of the owner of the Cypress Street home, which was about to be foreclosed on, the indictment said. The defendants allegedly hatched a plan to sell the property to a buyer who was in on the scheme, prosecutors said.

In that sale, $9,239 was set aside at the closing for repairs promised to the seller. Instead, the defendants, all except Spell, divided the money for personal use, the indictment said.

Dodson then allegedly drew up a phony invoice to show the repairs had been made. Also, to make the sale appear legitimate to the lender, Spell allegedly falsified a legal document, stating the buyer brought more than $11,000 to the closing and that the seller received more than $44,000, the indictment said.

Prosecutors said the seller received nothing, and that Miller and the buyer, who has not been charged, split the $44,000, according to reports.


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