Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2015

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Las Vegas lawyer pleads to mortgage fraud scheme in valley

A Las Vegas lawyer pleaded guilty Monday to his involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme that cost banks and other federally insured institutions $30 million, Nevada’s U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden announced today.

Gerry Zobrist, 43, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, officials said.

According to a plea agreement, Zobrist and unidentified co-conspirators solicited and paid people with good credit ratings to serve as straw buyers to purchase home in the Las Vegas area. Zobrist and his co-conspirators offered to purchase the homes, while the sellers agreed to give part of the sales proceeds to real estate companies, co-conspirators and third-party entities controlled by Zobrist and the co-conspirators.

All this was done under the pretense that the proceeds constituted attorney’s fees, marketing fees, commissions and other fees, according to the plea agreement. Zobrist and his co-conspirators then used the straw buyers’ names to submit false and fraudulent information mortgage loan applications. They also submitted to the lenders documents containing false information about the source of the down payments, value of the homes and intended disbursements.

From June 2006 to May 2008, Zobrist and his co-conspirators purchased 144 homes and obtained mortgage loans for more than $53 million using this scheme, officials said. Zobrist and his co-conspirators ultimately defaulted on the mortgage loans, causing the homes to go into foreclosure and the financial institutions to lose more than $30 million.

Zobrist, who is to be sentenced April 15, faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

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