Mortgage scammers were dealt another blow as 48-year-old Michael Anthony Hickson of Commack, N.J. was sentenced to 10 years in prison for fraud conspiracy, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in a massive mortgage fraud scheme.
Hickson was head of Metro Dream Homes (MDH), a company that would promise homeowners that it would pay off the mortgages on their homes under a faux-pyramid scheme.
“Maryland’s Mortgage Fraud Task Force is working to hold criminals accountable, recover illegal proceeds and deter future crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Metro Dream Homes is one of our most egregious fraud prosecutions, but it is only one of many mortgage fraud cases we are pursuing.”
The Maryland Mortgage Fraud Task Force, comprised of several different public safety agencies including the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, deemed this investigation “Operation Stolen Dreams.”
According to the indictment, in order to participate in the program, investors had to provide $50,000 in addition to another $5,000. In many cases, MDH would urge homeowners to refinance their existing mortgages to generate the $50,000 needed to enroll into the program. MDH promised to make mortgage payments in exchange. In five-seven years, MDH and the investors would have equal interest in the home.
The indictment says that despite MDH claiming that its business model generated revenue, that was never proven. Instead, MDH used the revenue to make mortgage payments for earlier investors and put the money in their own pockets. Once the money got into the pockets of high-ranking MDH members, the indictment says Hickson along with his co-conspirators used the funding to attend NBA All-Star games, the Super Bowl and to finance a fleet of luxury automobiles.
Homeowners were enticed with other perks as well, according to the indictment. Official status with MDH was offered if homeowners went above and beyond the $50,000 minimum requirement.
“Under these incentives, prospective investors were told that those who invested $100,000 or more would be granted a seat on the MDH ‘Junior Board of Directors,’” the indictment stated. “In addition to having his or her mortgage paid, a Junior Board member was entitled to an additional $52,000 per year in payments in exchange for attending two or three meetings of MDH investors per month.”
Those meetings would be held at glitzy local hotels.
Two of Hickson’s co-conspirators, Isaac Jerome Smith, 48, and Alvita Karen Gunn, 33, were sentenced to 70 and 60 months in prison, respectively.
Federal authorities ask that anyone with knowledge of a mortgage fraud scheme contact the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS, HUD, Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and the Maryland Office of the Attorney General.