Article Courtesy of The Tampa Bay Business Journal
By Frances McMorris
Published May 23, 2018
Two men at a Tampa-based mortgage broker were hit with federal prison time
for their roles in a $5.8 million fraud scheme involving the sale of condo
units in Temple Terrace, but one of them in particular appears to be ready
to testify against a Miami developer alleged to be part of the scheme.
Carlos Escarria, 61, of Largo was given an 18-month sentence by U.S.
District Judge Susan C. Bucklew. The judge also sentenced Alejandro Tobon,
the 35-year-old manager of Transcontinental Lending Group’s branch in Tampa,
to 37 months in prison.
Both men were ordered to pay restitution. Escarria was ordered to pay more
than $1.28 million while Tobon was ordered to pay more than $5.8 million.
But Tobon's sentencing memorandum asking for a lighter sentence noted his
cooperation with the federal probe into the scheme. The memo said that Tobon
may yet be testifying in the criminal case against a recently indicted Miami
developer in the alleged scheme.
The goal of the fraud was to sell condominium units at The Preserve at
Temple Terrace, a 392-unit condominium complex in the Tampa Bay area,
according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida.
The Preserve was in the process of converting from apartment rentals into
the condo complex.
To entice buyers to purchase the units, Tobon, Escarria and others conspired
to offer cash payments to buyers, either before or after closing. The
mortgage lenders were not made aware of these payments. The conspirators
used several entities to conceal from the mortgage lenders the cash payments
The conspirators made false statements on loan documents, such as purchase
and sale agreements and loan applications, and on HUD-1 settlement
statements, to induce mortgage lenders to approve loans for otherwise
unqualified borrowers, according to court documents.
Tobon, the Transcontinental Lending Group manager, was also the president of
Tobon Marketing and Consultant. His role in the conspiracy included
submitting false and fraudulent loan applications to financial institutions
to induce them to provide funding for buyers of Preserve units. He also
marketed units to buyers with undisclosed incentives and transferred funds
he received from the developer through Tobon Marketing and Consultant to
borrowers’ bank accounts. The money was then used to provide the down
payment and cash to close requirements.
Escarria worked as a loan officer at Transcontinental Lending Group’s branch
in Tampa. He signed false and fraudulent loan applications to induce
financial institutions into providing funding for buyers to purchase condo
units. The false representations submitted to and relied upon by mortgage
lenders included occupancy, income, source of funds, and assets.
The scheme ran from as early as October 2007 through May 2008, the U.S.
Attorney's office said. Both men pleaded guilty on June 9, 2017 to one count
of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. The mortgage lenders’ total
losses resulting from Tobon’s and Escarria’s roles is approximately $5.8
Both men could have faced substantially more prison time but both cooperated
with the federal probe.
Tobon, in his sentencing memorandum, noted that as soon as he was notified
that he was a target of investigation in December 2016, he hired a lawyer
and “confessed his sins and immediately cooperated with the government.”
Tobon’s court papers noted that he has been cooperating with federal
prosecutors for the past 15 months. They added that "the government still
needs him. Mordechai Boaziz and Jonathan Marmol, two very wealthy and very
intelligent co-conspirators who were perched high above the branch of the
tree wherein [Tobon] once toiled, are pending trial.”
Boaziz, a Miami resident and real estate developer, and Marmol were indicted
earlier this month on charges of federal bank fraud involving the Temple
Terrace condo conversion project. The trial is on the court calendar for
November. Both men have said they plan to fight the charges.
“This case involves activities which took place over a decade ago," Boaziz’s
defense lawyer John Fitzgibbons said. "Mr. Boaziz strongly disputes the
allegations contains in the indictment and intends to vigorously assert his
innocence at trial. We believe that after a jury hears all the facts they
will agree that Mr. Boaziz has done nothing wrong."
Marmol, a mortgage broker, was charged with making false statements on loan
applications and conspiracy to defraud the United States. His defense
lawyer, Nicholas G. Matassini, noted that Tobon will remain out of custody,
on bond pending the future federal jury trial of his client, Marmol, and