Two Miami-Dade mortgage fraudsters pleaded guilty in federal court last week to being part of a swindle that cost a bank $10 million and stressed two South Florida condominiums as the 2007-08 recession hit.
Miami Lakes’ Michelle Cabrera, 48, and Hialeah’s Pedro Melian, 39, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution. That’s a maximum 30-year sentence.
The others accused of being in cahoots with Cabrera and Melian, Sunny Isles Beach’s Marco Laureti and Miami Beach’s Felix Mostelac, have been indicted on conspiracy to commit wire fraud and multiple counts of wire fraud. Each awaits trial.
According to court documents, Cabrera admitted to using six properties in the fraud — four at 45 Hendricks Isle in Fort Lauderdale, the Tower Suite 2/3 in Miami Beach’s Sunset Harbour South and a house at 205 E. San Marino Dr. The bank was Washington Mutual, which went under in the 2008 economic collapse and got swallowed by JP Morgan Chase.
As Melian and Cabrera’s statements admit, the scheme started with fraudulent loan applications. Each application contained at least one lie. Washington Mutual approved the loans and sent the loan proceeds to Cabrera’s company, Florida Title. Part of that money would be used for the cash down payment on the real estate. The rest was taken by the quartet, according to court documents.
For example, when using the Sunset Harbour unit, Cabrera’s statement says they told Washington Mutual that Mostelac would be putting up over $2.3 million “cash from borrower” out of his pocket. Washington Mutual wired the rest of the sale price, $4.27 million. Out of that, the group paid the $2.3 million down payment and walked off with the $1.9 million.
Melian used his mother as the fake buyer on a 45 Hendricks Isle penthouse, which Broward County records show sold to Melian’s mother for $3.8 million in 2010. JP Morgan Chase foreclosed on the property and sold it to the Hendricks Isle IG for $900,000 in 2010.
After the sale scam, no loan payments were made nor, in the case of the condos, maintenance paid. The buildings’ residents found themselves facing assessments or raised maintenance bills, especially in the 2007-09 shower of foreclosures. The maintenance on the Sunset Harbour tower suite apartment, for example, approached $6,000, more than triple the maintenance for the building’s four bedroom-four bathroom apartments.
On the San Marino Drive house, Cabrera’s statement describes adding a layer to the scheme.
She says she and Laureti, the listed buyer according to Miami-Dade property records, got just over $5.2 million of the $6.9 million selling price as a loan from Washington Mutual, then stated Laureti would be making a nearly $1.7 million cash down payment. Then, Cabrera claims she wired $1.2 million to Lauerti’s company that he used to pay the downpayment. This was called “real estate commission” on the HUD-1 Settlement Statement to Washington Mutual — a 17 percent commission when 2 to 4 percent is average with the buyer getting a sales commission.