LAS VEGAS -- A federal judge today sentenced an Arizona man to nearly 22 years in prison for defrauding financial institutions of more than $24 million in a vast Las Vegas mortgage fraud scheme, Nevada's U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said.
Brett Depue, 38, currently in federal custody, but most recently a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt in connection with a scheme that involved more than 100 properties in Las Vegas and Henderson. Hunt also ordered Depue to pay roughly $1.5 million in restitution. Depue was convicted by a jury in March of seven counts of wire fraud, criminal forfeiture and conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud.
"Since the inception of our mortgage fraud program in the spring of 2008, we have charged over 200 persons with mortgage fraud crimes," Bogden said. "Most of them have been convicted, and the rest are pending trial. We are continuing to work with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to investigate and bring to justice the persons who are taking advantage of the housing crisis in Nevada to defraud financial institutions, distressed homeowners, and homebuyers."
From 2005 to 2007 Depue operated Nevada businesses in Las Vegas, including ABS Investments Group and Liberty Group Investments. From February 2005 to May 2007 Depue participated in a conspiracy with 13 others to defraud federally insured banks. The conspiracy consisted of recruiting straw buyers, typically friends or family members with good credit, to purchase homes that they had no intention to occupy and which Depue would control.
Depue paid the straw buyers $5,000 to put houses in their name. He then directed co-conspirators to prepare mortgage applications containing false and fraudulent information so that the straw buyers could qualify for the loans. During the beginning of the scheme, Depue orchestrated simple transactions in which the straw buyers purchased properties using 100 percent financing. The properties were purchased at a price above the asking price, and the difference was disbursed at closing to one of the defendant's businesses. Later, Depue began using "double escrows" in which a buyer purchased a property and then resold it to a straw buyer at an inflated price, often on the same day.
Depue and his co-conspirators obtained mortgage loans for 110 homes in Las Vegas and Henderson between April 2005 and April 2007. Ten co-conspirators were also convicted for their roles in the offense.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian Pugh and Sarah Griswold.