Four mortgage brokers including the president of a New Jersey-based company, American Macro Growth, are accused of helping clients fraudulently obtain more than $20 million in home equity and business lines of credit from at least 16 banks.
Mortgage fraud schemes typically rely on inflated appraisals and straw buyers to obtain mortgages that exceed a property’s true market value.
But prosecutors say AMG employed a different scheme, helping clients use the same properties as collateral for multiple home equity lines of credit, or “HELOCs.” One AMG client allegedly obtained $2.14 million in credit from nine banks with less than $300,000 of equity in a Palisades Park, N.J., property.
AMG is also accused of advising clients to use proceeds from fraudulently obtained business lines of credit, or BLOCs, to purchase homes or increase their equity in properties they already owned to obtain multiple HELOCs.
Clients paid large commissions for AMG’s assistance, which allegedly included misrepresenting clients’ income using falsified income tax returns to increase their borrowing power. Prosecutors said another client paid $122,529 in commissions to obtain approximately $1.7 million in lines of credit from at least seven different banks
According to an indictment of four AMG loan brokers and nine clients, the scheme relied on closing multiple HELOCs in a short period of time, before lenders’ security interests could be publicly recorded.
In addition to the 13 indictments, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey said it has obtained guilty pleas from seven other people, including six AMG clients, and expects further arrests and please in the case.
According to a report in The Record newspaper of Hackensack, AMG closed up an office it opened in the fall of 2005 on a dead-end street in Palisades Park after only a few months at that location, without paying the last month’s rent.
The indictment charges that at least 16 lenders in northern New Jersey were defrauded between February 2004 and November 2005.
Victims included some household names, including Bank of America, Citibank, JP Morgan Chase Bank, HSBC Bank, Wachovia Bank, Washington Mutual Bank, Wells Fargo Bank and Countrywide Home Loans Inc.
Prosecutors said six clients and one former employee of AMG have entered guilty pleas. The six AMG clients who have entered guilty pleas are Chul Chung, 43, of Ridgefield Park; Dea Hee Lee, 44, of Creskill; Ha Rim Park, 42, of Palisades Park; Junho Park, 34, of Little Ferry; Jeffrey Ryu, 42, of Fort Lee; and Sung Woo Son, 37, of Palisades Park.
A former AMG employee, 35-year-old Sin Ah Kim, of Lindhurst, who allegedly helped clients fraudulently obtain lines of credit, also pleaded guilty.
The indicted AMG loan brokers include company president Jacob Kim, 51, of Palisades Park; Jun Hwang, 42, of Cliffside Park; Jeff Kim, 37, of Edgewater; and Justin Kim, 27, of Palisades Park. Justin Kim was arrested on Oct. 24.
The nine indicted AMG clients are James Park, 41, of Hackensack; Jin Hee Song, 35, of Palisades Park; Tae Woo Lee, 42, of Palisades Park; Sun Hee Lim, 37, of Fort Lee; Hyun M. Kim, 35, of Palisades Park; Dong Jin Kim, 53, of Palisades Park; Hye Sung Park, 37, of Queens, N.Y.; Hyeong Ju Lee, 33, of Edgewater; and Ma Dung Kim, 50, of Maywood. Sun Hee Lim was arrested Jan. 9.
James Park is also accused of loaning money to AMG clients so they could pay down existing mortgages and borrow more money through HELOCs. Park allegedly made loans of approximately $200,000 and $150,000 to two AMG clients who used the loans to pay down mortgages and obtain multiple HELOCs. Park himself allegedly obtained approximately $1.4 million in HELOCs from eight or more banks using less than $300,000 of equity as security for the loans.
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