A former Missouri mortgage broker and a former real estate appraiser were sentenced in federal court last week in separate but related mortgage fraud cases involving nearly 300 fraudulent loans worth almost $20 million, officials said.

Avonda Nicodemus, 33, of Kansas City, Mo., a former account executive at Ameriquest Mortgage in Gladstone, and Peggy Snodgrass, 40, of Independence, Mo., who operated a real estate appraisal business in Raytown, Mo., were sentenced in separate appearances before U.S. District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan, according to Bradley J. Schlozman, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

The two were sentenced in two related cases involving a property-flipping scheme and mortgage fraud, officials said.

Nicodemus was sentenced to five years of probation, including four months of electronic monitoring, and ordered to pay approximately $1.16 million in restitution, officials said. Under the terms of probation, Nicodemus may not work as a loan broker or in the mortgage business, officials said.

Snodgrass was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay approximately $1.15 million in restitution, according to officials.

Nicodemus and Snodgrass are the first defendants sentenced in the mortgage fraud scheme in which six defendants have pleaded guilty, officials said.

The case is the largest mortgage fraud case ever prosecuted in the Western District of Missouri, according to officials, and the scheme encompassed 289 fraudulent loans totaling $19.6 million, with a total actual loss of approximately $11.8 million for the financial institutions that were defrauded, officials said.

Brent Michael Barber, 41, of Belton, Mo., pleaded guilty on Feb. 23, 2006, to 104 counts contained in two federal indictments, officials said. Those indictments, as well as a third federal indictment for which Barber was convicted by a jury, involve separate schemes to defraud mortgage lending companies of millions of dollars, officials said.

Barber admitted that he recruited people to purchase rental properties, assuring them that he would find renters for the properties and sell the properties a short time later, so that the victim-investors would have no financial risk and a guaranteed quick profit, officials said.

Then he provided false information on the loan documents and arranged for inflated appraisals in order to receive approval for the loans, officials said. Many of the buyers would not have qualified for the loans if true information had been given to the lenders, officials said.

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