Fifteen Charged in Tri-County Multi-Million Dollar Mortgage Fraud Investigation


The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, the Office of the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office today announce the arrest of 11 individuals for their role in a mortgage fraud case that spanned Flagler, Volusia and Lake Counties, involved 23 homes and resulted in more than $9 million in losses. Fourpeople are still wanted in relation to this case. All individuals are charged with one count of criminal racketeering and one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering, both first-degree felonies.

The two-year investigation, named “Operation Fast Cash Kickback,” focused on a complex scheme involving home buyers, realtors, appraisers, and mortgage brokers. Investigators allege the charged individuals artificially raised home prices, falsified appraisals, and pocketed large amounts of cash by facilitating a series of fraudulent home sales. The scam involved using “straw buyers” to purchase a home. The straw buyer’s realtor then asked the seller to raise the price of the home in order for the difference to be provided back to the straw buyer for alleged “renovations.” The appraiser would then inflate the price of the home to meet the contract sales price. At closing, a designated third party individual or shell company received the proceeds for “renovations,” which ranged from $25,000 to $320,000 for each sale. The third party recipient then returned a majority of the funds back to the straw buyer via check or wire transfer. No renovations were ever conducted on the homes and each of the properties foreclosed a short time after the sale.   The estimated loss to date is approximately $9 million.
The following individuals were arrested:
Jonathan Bravo, 33, of Miami
Cristian Diaz, 34, of Doral
Jamie De La Roche, 42, of Lake Worth
Carlos Esteller, 43, of Miami
Edith Esteller, 51, of Miami
Patricia De La Espiella, 49, of Miramar
Carmen Ganem, 30, of Miami
Claudia Ganem, 36, of Miami
Argenis Lugo, 33, of Doral
Adrian Pena, 34, of Miami
Linda Kasper, 64, of Flagler Beach
The following individuals are still being sought by authorities. Individuals with information about their location should contact their local authorities.
Nieves Alvarez, 50, of Miami
Nelson Pinzon, 48, of Delray Beach
Cruz Urbano, 44, of Hialeah
Randy Ly, 45, Seattle Wash. 
For Further Information Contact:
Heather Smith, Keith Kameg or Kristi Gordon
FDLE Office of Public Information
(850) 410-7001
Office of the Attorney General
John Wethington
(904) 838-6344
Department of Financial Regulation
Flora Beal