CEO and founder of alleged real estate investment firm Home Start America (HSA), Michael Kaufman, was sentenced to 50 months in prison last week for his role in a long-running, large scale wire fraud conspiracy with loan officer David Wynn.
According to documents filed and statements made in court:
Kaufman founded HSA in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and at one time employed more than 30 people. Kaufman, through HSA, purchased and sold residential real estate properties. As part of the scheme, Kaufman and others recruited people – often first-time home buyers – to purchase properties quickly, with promises of no money down, no closing costs, and repairs paid for by HSA. Kaufman would then steer the purchasers to loan officers, including the aforementioned David Wynn.
Many of the properties sold by HSA had actually been bought by HSA shortly before, and then “flipped” to the unsuspecting buyers for far more than HSA paid. Kaufman, Wynn, and others falsely inflated the buyers’ income and assets on loan documents to make it appear that the buyers could afford the properties HSA was selling, when the purchasers did not have the means to buy the properties.
Victim financial institutions – relying on the false figures in the loan documents – then issued the mortgage loans, unaware of the purchasers’ true financial conditions. HSA and Kaufman received illicit profits when the transactions closed, and Wynn and other loan officers received commissions for their fraudulent work. After the closings, the buyers could not make the payments on the properties, and nearly always lost the properties to foreclosure.
The fraud, which began as early as 2002 and lasted through June 2005, caused over $1.5 million in loss to the banks, and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits for Kaufman and HSA.
Kaufman pleaded guilty in April to a Superseding Indictment which charged him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He was sentenced to just over 4 years in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release and ordered to pay $1,336,399 in restitution.
Wynn was sentenced in October to a year and a day in prison for his role in the conspiracy and ordered to pay $171,000 in restitution.
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