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FRESNO, CA—Fausto Arthur Cruz Hernandez, 44, resident of Mexico, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill to over 15 years in prison for bank robbery and for violating a previously imposed term of federal supervised release, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to court documents, on July 22, 2014, the defendant robbed the Bank of the West at 7062 N. First Street in Fresno. The defendant presented a note to a teller that said, “I want $50,000,” and “This is a robbery.” The defendant demanded, “hundreds only.” The teller gave him the hundred dollar bills in her drawer, and he asked what else she had. She said she had nothing else and attempted to push the alarm button. The defendant saw what she was doing and said, “don’t push the button, put your hands up.” The defendant showed her what the teller recognized as a black handgun, and told all of the tellers to “get on the floor.” They did and the defendant left the bank.
Due to prior felony convictions, the defendant qualified as a career criminal, which results in enhanced penalties under federal law. In sentencing the defendant, Judge O’Neill recognized the need to protect the community from the defendant’s violent behavior.
“We are thankful for the Fresno Police Department’s collaborative efforts and for the assistance that was received from the public. Together, we ensured an armed and dangerous criminal faced justice,” said Supervisory Special Agent Jacqueline Neumann of the Sacramento FBI’s Fresno Resident Agency. “The public is not powerless and can fight crime by providing information to identify individuals who put their communities at significant risk.”
This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Fresno Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Kimberly A. Sanchez prosecuted the case. The case is part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative which is a coordinated effort between federal, state and local law enforcement authorities aiming to make our community safer by targeting firearm offenses.
The defendant is currently in custody and will remain there throughout the remainder of his sentence.
Former Fresno Police Department Detective and Fresno Marijuana Trafficker Plead Guilty to Bribery Conspiracy
U.S. Attorney’s OfficeFebruary 23, 2015
FRESNO, CA—Derik Carson Kumagai, 41, and Saykham Somphoune a/k/a, “Oat,” 41, both residents of Fresno, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit bribery, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to the defendants’ plea agreements and other court documents, beginning in April of 2012, federal law enforcement was investigating a group of individuals, including defendant Somphoune and one of his associates, for suspected cultivation and distribution of marijuana. In October and November of 2013, defendant Somphuone had a series of meetings with his associate, some of which were attended by defendant Kumagai. At the time, Kumagai was a Fresno Police Department Detective. During these meetings, the associate was told that he was under federal investigation, but that in return for a bribe payment, defendant Kumagai could close the investigation and arrange to have the associate designated as a confidential informant for the Fresno Police Department. On November 6, 2013, the associate paid Kumagai approximately $20,000 cash. A few hours later, the associate signed documents for the purported purpose of becoming a confidential informant for the Fresno Police Department. The defendants were arrested in March of 2014, and the associate never actually served as a confidential informant for the Fresno Police Department.
“The defendants attempted to take advantage of the trust placed in law enforcement officers for their personal gain,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “Law enforcement officers who accept bribes put the public and other law enforcement officers in danger.”
“There is absolutely no room for such egregious misconduct in law enforcement,” said Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the Sacramento FBI. “Individuals who commit such crimes undermine public trust and betray the other fine officers who serve the public honestly and with the highest degree of integrity, while risking their lives daily to protect their communities.”
DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Bruce C. Balzano stated, “The DEA will diligently work with our law enforcement counterparts to hold those accountable who tarnish the badge by engaging in criminal behavior.”
“Mr. Kumagai took an oath to uphold the law and protect citizens,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge José M. Martinez. “Instead, he used his position for personal gain and betrayed the community he swore to protect. IRS-CI will continue to investigate public corruption to ensure everyone plays by the same rules—regardless of job or position.”
This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer and the Fresno Police Department cooperated with federal law enforcement throughout the investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Grant B. Rabenn and Kevin P. Rooney are prosecuting the case.
Kumagai and Somphoune are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Anthony W. Ishii on May 4, 2015. Kumagai and Somphoune face a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
This case is the product of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a focused multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
Woman Sentenced for Lynchburg Mortgage Fraud Susanne Helbig Previously Admitted to Causing Nearly $11 Million in Losses to Banks and Mortgage Lenders
U.S. Attorney’s OfficeFebruary 27, 2015
LYNCHBURG, VA—The former majority owner of a local construction company, who recruited a number of strawbuyers to defraud financial institutions of millions of dollars through an intricate mortgage fraud conspiracy, was sentenced today in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Lynchburg.
Susanne Helbig, 50, a former resident of Roanoke, Va. and majority owner of Genesis Mansions, previously pled guilty to one count of mortgage fraud conspiracy and one count of tax fraud. Today in District Court, Helbig was sentenced to 96 months in federal prison. The defendant has also agreed to pay $10,582,188 in restitution to the financial institutions that were defrauded and $179,593 to the Internal Revenue Service.
“These individuals executed a complex scheme that defrauded a number of local and national financial institutions,” Acting United States Attorney Anthony P. Giorno said today. “Ms. Helbig’s repeated acts of fraud and making false statements to banks allowed her to fraudulently obtain about $17 million in loans, the majority of which was lost. We continue to be committed to prosecuting those who commit mortgage and other financial frauds as a way of protecting our housing and credit markets.”
“The FBI is committed to investigating those who scheme to personally profit by defrauding the nation’s mortgage industry. The FBI and our law enforcement partners conduct these investigations to minimize the impact on the honest borrower who oftentimes has to absorb the costs of these illegal activities, and we will use every tool in our investigative toolbox to ensure solid financial markets for lenders and borrowers alike,” said Adam S. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division.
“Helbig’s reckless conduct, and others like her, contributed to the financial crisis in 2008. Her greed and self-serving actions caused serious harm to financial institutions and U.S. taxpayers,” said Thomas J. Kelly, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Washington DC Field Office. “IRS Criminal Investigation, together with our law enforcement partners, will continue to pursue those who engage in criminal actions that damage the integrity of our financial system.”
Helbig previously admitted that between March 2006 and December 2007 she, and others, conspired to defraud financial institutions through the submission of false and fraudulent mortgage loan applications and settlement statements in the name of strawbuyers. Helbig, and others, took these actions to induce financial institutions to finance the purchase and construction of approximately 30 properties near Smith Mountain Lake. The fraudulent actions of Helbig, and others, caused nearly $11 million in losses.
According to evidence presented at previous hearings by Assistant United States Attorney Laura Day Rottenborn, Helbig was the leader of a conspiracy who, along with her co-conspirators, recruited strawbuyers to pose as purchasers for properties Helbig owned near Smith Mountain Lake. Helbig paid the strawbuyers between $5,000 and $20,000 to pretend that they had purchased property from Helbig and needed a loan to build a primary residence on the land. In reality, however, the strawbuyers had no intention of owning or living in the house and instead Helbig took the loan disbursements for herself. She used some of the money to build homes on the land, which she intended to flip and sell for substantial profit but never did. She also used the loan money to pay herself; gave some of the money to her co-conspirators to incentivize their participation in the scheme; and took money from one loan institution to pay off debts she owed to other financial institutions.
To induce lenders to make the loans, Helbig and her co-conspirators helped the strawbuyers falsify their loan applications. The loan applications stated an artificially inflated value for the land, inflated the strawbuyer’s income and assets, misrepresented the strawbuyer’s employment, misrepresented that the property would be the strawbuyer’s primary residence, and misrepresented the true source of funds provided to the strawbuyer for closing. Helbig personally gave strawbuyers substantial sums of money to help them qualify for loans that they could not otherwise afford, as well as kickbacks to the strawbuyers for their services– without disclosing either such gifts to the lenders. In many instances, Helbig then took back the “gifts” used to inflate the strawbuyer’s assets as soon as the loan closed. Helbig further signed settlement statements and loan applications even though she knew they contained materially false information designed to trick the banks into making the substantial loans. She then filed false tax returns claiming improper deductions, resulting in a grossly underestimated tax liability.
When Helbig could no longer obtain additional financing, due in part to her supply of strawbuyers drying up and the tightening of the extension of credit in connection with the mortgage crisis of 2008, she stopped making payments on the loans, causing the properties to go into foreclosure and causing the lenders substantial loss. The strawbuyers were also put into financial ruin when the defaults and foreclosures were reported negatively on their accounts with the credit bureaus.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorneys Laura Day Rottenborn and Heather Carlton prosecuted the case for the United States.