Friday, October 17, 2003

Third plea deal in flipping

False papers used for loan

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The co-owner of a Glendale title company admitted that she signed false documents in order to get a loan for an investor as part of a widespread mortgage fraud scheme believed to be prevalent in many of Southwest Ohio's poor and working-class communities.

Lisa Holderman-Powers of Premier Land Title signed a plea deal with federal prosecutors in which she admitted the crime. She agreed to cooperate with investigators probing other people in the property 'flipping' scam. The deal was made public Thursday.

"We anticipate a lot more plea deals," Amul Thapar, assistant U.S. attorney, said.

Holderman-Powers' plea deal is the third filed this week at U.S. District Court in Cincinnati conceding fraud by title agents. Charlene Bold, who managed Global Title Agency in Sharonville, and Kristie Neff, a settlement agent at Premier Land Title, signed plea deals in the property flipping investigation.

Property flipping is a sophisticated mortgage fraud designed to secure loans on properties that are worth far less. Investors typically work with appraisers and friendly title agents in order to pull off the scam. Community leaders have complained that such deals have contributed to Hamilton County's record foreclosure rate with many vacant properties clustered in city neighborhoods.

The plea deal signed by Holderman-Powers accuses her of closing a bad loan on an East Price Hill house in 2001.

A company owned by investor David Lockwood sold a single-family house at 1030 McPherson St. to investor Chris Deselms for $88,000. Holderman-Powers is accused of processing loan papers indicating Deselms brought a down payment of $11,294. However, prosecutors say the down payment money really came from DS Real Estate Holdings LLC, co-owned by Lockwood.

The lender, ABN Amro, approved a loan not knowing the down payment was paid by DS Real Estate Holdings.

The plea deal also states that Holderman-Powers closed several other flipped loans involving artificially high appraisals. In some cases, the borrower received undisclosed kickbacks.

E-mail kalltucker@enquirer .com

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