(Source: Tom McLaughlin Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach) – A Freeport subdivision development called Riverwalk never got off the ground, but two Colorado men apparently made a lot of money selling lots there as investment opportunities.
Now, Steven F. Reagan of Arvada and Jay S. Fulton of Aurora are looking at hefty federal prison sentences.
They were among nine people indicted Monday for “mortgage fraud schemes” involving several properties in Northwest Florida.
A news release issued Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pensacola said Reagan and Fulton are accused of illegally securing loans for more than $3 million to buy homes in Santa Rosa Beach.
The men transferred about $450,000 of the money into bank accounts “held by entities associated with the Riverwalk development in Freeport,” the news release said.
Reagan and Fulton solicited borrowers to purchase lots located in Riverwalk “as an investment opportunity,” the release said.
The release said “through false statements,” borrowers obtained $2 million in loans to purchase the Riverwalk lots.
“Reagan and Fulton received kickbacks from an entity associated with the Riverwalk development,” the release said.
Riverwalk originally was envisioned as a subdivision of 500 homes featuring a 1,000-foot boardwalk leading to Four Mile Creek.
Walton County Property Appraiser Patrick Pilcher said that these days “putting that word development behind Riverwalk is putting it very loosely.”
“I drive by the entrance there every day. It’s a subdivision that’s platted and went through all the land use requests and given all the permits necessary,” he said. “But it’s really in a bad state right now. The roads are mostly unpaved and the storm water drains are eroded and filled up with sand.”
The property originally was owned by a developer named Jerry Miller, records show. It passed eventually to another man, Terry Habshey, who records indicate sold it for $21 million in 2005 to a group known as Riverwalk Freeport LLC.
Pilcher said at one time he “noticed a lot of money” moving through the property.
“There was a time, really after the price spike in the housing industry, there were lots that continued to sell in that subdivision. And the prices showing on the deed seemed to be way off base with the market,” Pilcher said.
The people involved in the off-kilter dealing had addresses in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, Pilcher said.
Reagan, 51, and Fulton, 47, face a maximum of 70 years in prison on charges of conspiracy to commit bank and mail fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Both men have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to be tried March 5 before U.S. District Judge Lacey Collier.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also has announced that Raysean K. Richardson, 27, of New York, has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Richardson was arrested Feb. 1 in New York and is scheduled to be arraigned in Pensacola on March 8.
Charging documents state he obtained fraudulent mortgage loans for $617,500 to purchase a home in Navarre, according to the release.
It states “after closing on the loans, and following a series of financial transactions,” Richardson received about $135,961 in kickbacks.
He faces up to 20 years on each count of the three-count indictment, the release said.
Also, Steven Imes III, 48, of Woodland Hills, Calif., and Keasha Rogers, 36, of Atlanta, have been indicted in a Navarre case, according to the news release.
The indictment states Imes secured a $1.8 million in mortgages to buy three homes in the Navarre area and that Rogers got a mortgage loan for $630,000.
Imes eventually received $136,000 in kickbacks and Rogers got $35,000 in kickbacks, the release said.
They were arrested in January and are charged with mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. They face up to 20 years on each charge.
They are scheduled to be arraigned today in Pensacola.
In another case, Jonathon “David” Sanders, 50, of Santa Rosa Beach is one of four people indicted for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Louis Mazzella, 41, Scott F. Smith, 48, and Paula N. Smith, 43, all of New York, also are charged.
The indictment states Scott Smith schemed to buy a home in Santa Rosa Beach from Sanders for $1.8 million, with $1.3 million of the loan “fraudulently obtained” from a bank.
“Sanders had a $1.2 million mortgage on the property at the time he sold it … but instead of paying off the loan Sanders caused the money to be diverted elsewhere,” the news release quoted the indictment.
All four received a portion of the $1.3 million loan, the release said.
Sanders appeared in federal court in Pensacola for the first time Tuesday. His trial is scheduled for April 2.
Mazzella and the Smiths were arrested Feb. 3 in New York. They are scheduled to make their first appearance in Pensacola on Feb. 27.
©2012 the Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.)
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Source: Tom McLaughlin Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach