A Houston man was indicted in a multimillion-dollar mortgage scheme said to have been going on in that city since 2002.

Lawrence Randall Benham, 41, is charged with five counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, and one count each of bank fraud and making a monetary transaction with criminally derived property, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas said.

Wire fraud, mail fraud or bank fraud carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison upon conviction. The monetary transaction charge carries a maximum 10-year prison term upon conviction. Additionally, substantial fines and restitution to victims can be ordered.

The indictment alleges that Benham devised a mortgage fraud scheme in which he located residential properties for sale, and persuaded and used others as nominee purchasers of the properties for his benefit.

Benhan is accused of using the nominee borrower’s credit and identifying information on loan applications, allegedly exaggerating the nominee’s financial resources and ability to repay the loans, and arranging for the nominee borrowers to purchase the properties at prices far in excess of their true value.

According to the indictment, Benham then directed large sums of money from the closing on the residential properties be paid to himself or accounts controlled by him. The indictment alleges that the five loans obtained between July 2003 and April 2005 amounted to about $1.5 million.

Benham is also accused of two counts of mail fraud arising from the mortgage loan scheme.

The one count of bank fraud accuses Benham of defrauding a Houston-area bank by allegedly forging the signature of a payee on a $58,504 check and retaining the proceeds for himself. Lastly, Benham is accused of transferring approximately $25,000 of proceeds allegedly derived from his mortgage fraud scheme to a local Land Rover dealership.

This case was investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, with assistance from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Cynthia DeGabrielle is prosecuting the case.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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