Hammond man gets probation for role in mortgage fraud scheme
A Chicago man will serve a year of probation in exchange for pleading guilty to lying on a federal document and agreeing to testify against a Northwest Indiana businessman who federal attorneys say ran a large mortgage fraud ring that took in more than $2 million.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Rodovich also ordered Francisco Rodriguez during the sentencing hearing Thursday morning in Hammond to serve 40 hours of community service.
Rodriguez pleaded guilty earlier this year to lying on a U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development document used in the closing of a house, located at 884 Louisiana St., Gary,, that he bought from one of Minas Litos’ companies.
The defendant did not say on the document that he got the $9,367 for the downpayment from another of Litos’ companies.
Litos, who owns Loubie’s Pancake House in Hammond, faces 17 counts of wire fraud for allegedly selling 40 homes this way to people with poor credit, according to his indictment. He and other defendants also helped the buyers lie on their financial reports to make them appear safer bets to the banks. Most of the buyers eventually defaulted on the mortgages.
Rodriguez’s attorney, Colette Luchetta-Stendel, said during the hearing that Rodriguez did lie on the statement but that in a way he was also victimized because he was told this process was OK. It was the first time he had ever bought a house, she said.
“He was lied to induce to buy these properties,” she said, adding that the sellers also lied to him about the state of the property.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Bell said the property, which is now abandoned, actually has a negative value because money will have to be spent to tear it down.
Part of Rodriguez’s probation includes continued cooperation with the government, including testifying against Litos if asked. Litos has pleaded not guilty.