4closurefraud.org Owner Carol Asbury Accused of Running A Straw Buyer Operation

Kim Miller at the Palm Beach Post posted an article yesterday about how foreclosure defense and owner of 4closurefraud.org attorney Carol Asbury was indicted by the feds for her involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme in the Versailles area of the wealthy community of Wellington about 15 miles west of West Palm Beach.

Apparently, Asbury was involved in a scheme that would use people from the low-income Miami suburb of Opa Locka as straw buyers to purchase homes in Versailles.  Carl Alexander who was indicted along with Asbury was in charge of recruiting the straw buyers who were paid between $700-$15,000 for purchasing the home.

Asbury who also owned a law firm specializing in mortgage closings, Asbury & Associates aside from her foreclosure defense firm of Save My Home Law Group handled the closings of these transactions.

According to the indictment, the closing documents were prepared by real estate broker David Lam and Asbury. The documents concealed the fact that lenders were lending the straw buyers more money than the house was worth with Alexander, Asbury and Lam pocketing the difference.  In four transactions alone the three pocketed an estimated $1.8 million.

Here is the DOJ Press Release:

NINE CHARGED IN THREE INDICTMENTS

CONCERNING VERSAILLES MORTGAGE FRAUD SCHEMES

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Kimberly A. Lappin, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Miami Field Office, Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Financial Services, Amos Rojas, Jr., Special Agent in Charge, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Michael K. Fithen, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, and the Palm Beach County Mortgage Fraud Task Force, announced the return of two indictments and one superseding indictment involving mortgage fraud schemes relating to properties in the Versailles development in Wellington, Florida.  Charged in at least one of the indictments are defendant Carl Alexander, 45, of Parkland, Florida; Carol Asbury, 59, an attorney, of Lake Worth, Florida;  Patrick Brinson, 34, of Miami, Florida; David Lam, 42, a real estate broker, of Parkland, Florida; David Miller, 43, Miramar, Florida; Godfrey Myles, 42, former professional football player, of Miami, Florida; Michael Samuda, 38, an attorney, of Weston, Florida; Thomas Thelusma, 40, a firefighter, of Miami, Florida; and Victoria Wilson, 30, a mortgage broker, of Hollywood, Florida.

As alleged in all three indictments, the defendants used “straw buyers” to submit false documentation substantially inflating the purchase price of the properties to various mortgage lenders.  As part of the conspiracy, double HUD-1 Settlement Statements were prepared.  One set with the real price was provided to the seller and another set with the inflated price was provided to the lender.  The difference between the real price and the inflated price was either made to appear as if it were a debt owed to business entities controlled by the defendants and their co-conspirators,  or was made to appear as profits to the seller.  The fraudulent loan proceeds were instead laundered through multiple accounts to conceal the source and distribution of the money and were ultimately used for the benefit of the defendants and their co-conspirators.

More specifically, in one of the indictments (11-CR-80033-KAM), defendants Asbury, Brinson, Lam and Myles were involved in a mortgage fraud scheme that generated more than $2.55 million in mortgage loans and approximately $488,000 in fraudulent loan proceeds involving two properties in the Versailles development in Wellington:  10638 Versailles Boulevard and 10515 Vignon Court.  Asbury and Lam are also charged with a mortgage fraud scheme which generated an additional $2 million in mortgage loans and $785,000 in fraudulent loan proceeds involving Versailles properties 10284 Medicis Place and 10420 St. Germain Court.  Defendants Asbury and Lam are charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, and defendants Brinson and Myles are charged with one count.  Defendants Asbury, Brinson and Myles are each charged with two counts of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343, and defendant Lam is charged with four counts.  Defendants Asbury and Lam are also each charged with one count of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 1341.  Defendants Asbury, Brinson, and Myles are each charged with one count of making false statements on loan applications, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001, and defendant Lam is charged in two counts.  Each of the defendants are also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h).  Defendants Asbury and Lam are charged in three counts of money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957, and defendants Brinson and Myles are charged in six counts.

In a second indictment (11-CR-80061-KAM), defendants Asbury, Alexander and Lam were charged for their involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme that generated more than  $4.9 million in mortgage loans and approximately $1.8 million in fraudulent loan proceeds involving four Versailles properties:  10714 Versailles Boulevard, 3617 Royalle Terrace, 10293 Medicis Place, and 3554 Collonade Drive.  Defendants Alexander, Asbury and Lam are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349; nine counts of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; four counts of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 1341; four counts of making false statements on loan applications, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h).  In addition, defendants Alexander and Asbury are charged in thirteen counts of money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957, and defendant Lam is charged in six counts.

The third indictment (11-CR-80057-KAM) charges defendants Lam, Miller, Samuda, Thelusma, and Wilson in a mortgage fraud scheme that generated more than $3.79 million in mortgage loans and approximately $1 million in fraudulent loan proceeds involving three Versailles properties: 10475 Trianon Place, 10460 Trianon Place, and 3483 Collonade Drive.  All of the defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349; six counts of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; and one count of criminal forfeiture in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 981.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison for the mail and wire fraud conspiracy, 20 years in prison for each of the mail and wire fraud counts, 20 years in prison for the money laundering conspiracies, 10 years in prison for each of the money laundering counts, and 5 years in prison for each of the false statement charges.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, Department of Financial Services, FBI, FDLE, U.S. Secret Service, and the Palm Beach County Mortgage Fraud Task Force.  The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephanie Evans, Ellen Cohen and Carolyn Bell.

An indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m surprised by this. I don’t believe she’s a victim of government persecution because of 4closurefraud.org but because of the way she conducts her business.

Asbury rose to prominence last May after she got upset that Judge Meenu Sasser in Palm Beach County was consistently ruling against her and other foreclosure defense attorneys in her circle.  Asbury through her website 4closurefraud.org did a Glenn Beck style stunt and posted the contents of Judge Sasser’s mutual fund on the site. The fund contained stock holdings in several major banks.  She and her webmaster, Michael Redman tried to assert Judge Sasser unfairly ruled against foreclosure defense attorneys because doing so would enhance the value of her mutual fund.   Soon after posting this, they followed it up with another article claiming every judge in Palm Beach County is corrupt because the county’s pension fund has funds tied to the major banks.

Contrary to popular belief, Carol Asbury doesn’t just sponsor 4closurefraud.org she owns it.   She uses it as a marketing tool for her law firm.  Redman claims Asbury is only a “sponsor” because the site does not conform to Florida Bar rules governing attorney websites which is why soon after Redman’s involvement the ICANN registry was switched to “Domains By Proxy”.   The site was listed on Carol Asbury’s business cards prior to Michael Redman’s involvement and is listed as her website with the Florida Bar. Carol Asbury, who is a protégé of Neil Garfield, met Michael Redman, an unemployed car salesman at one of Garfield’s seminars and offered him a job as a researcher.

Asbury and Redman  also ask for donations on site which is against Florida law if you are not a licensed non-profit with the state of Florida.

This indictment isn’t the first time Asbury has been in trouble. In April of 2008, she was publicly reprimanded by the Florida Bar for misconduct:

Asbury Bar Complaint

Asbury Consent Judgment

Asbury Public Reprimand

Asbury also has a history of abandoning clients as she did with one of the clients I referred to her.  I personally know of two others because I received calls from their new attorneys asking me questions about the reports I wrote that were in the file.

Michael Redman, manages 4closurefraud.org and defends his boss in the Palm Beach Post piece by saying,   “I find it very disturbing that the government must use all their resources to attack the people that are exposing the fraud and corruption.  Where are the indictments on all the known felonies committed by the banks, foreclosure mills and doc shops?”

When I had the website MFI-Mod Squad and would expose shady loan modification companies, I would hear things very similar to this when I would expose people doing things they knew they shouldn’t be doing.  Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying Michael Redman was involved in the straw buyer scheme that Asbury was involved in.   He’s just trying to save his job with 4closurefraud.org and his credibility both of which it appears just went out the window.

Redman’s response also doesn’t surprise me.  He and the rest of the foreclosure activist crowd in Florida, including Matt Weidner in Tampa use fear and Glenn Beck-style government conspiracy theories to market their services.   Except for Weidner who is a lawyer, the majority of activists think because they went to a 5 hour Neil Garfield seminar and have access to the internet, they are now experts who can get paid for foreclosure services and to give advice.  I know because clients tell me the bad advice they have gotten from these people.

These activists are nothing more than pissed off homeowners who are either unemployed or are retirees with nothing better to do with their time.   They read the crazy stories about government conspiracy theories on the web then embellish them and then pass it along as fact. 4closurefraud.org admin Michael Redman got caught doing this several times.  These activists will read a legal brief and then think they are a legal scholar.  They have no background in the law, lending or finance but because of the power of their imagination coupled with reading too many comic books as a kid or are pumped up from watching too many made-for-TV empowerment movies on the Lifetime Channel, they now think they’re a super hero.

Was Carol Asbury targeted by the feds because she going after the banks? I doubt it.  I’ve been doing mortgage fraud investigating longer than she had been doing foreclosure defense.  My attorneys and I have a better success rate than Asbury and we have yet to have a problem.

Redman’s comments are similar to the comments he and the rest of the pretend Superfriends in Florida made when WordPress shut down Jake Naumer’s Foreclosure Blues website.  They all jumped to the conclusion that the government or the banks forced it down because he was calling banks on to the mat.   That ended up not being the case. The site was shut down because he was lifting copyrighted material from other websites including this one without attribution or a link.

As for the fate of Carol Asbury, we’ll have to wait and see what happens but the last thing people need to do is speculate and spread rumors which seems to be difficult for some people in Florida.

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