By Cathy Locke
The last of four defendants in a Sacramento-area mortgage fraud scheme has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
Melissa Villegas, 31, of Sacramento entered the plea today before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia.
Three other defendants pleaded guilty in the case earlier this year.
Rick Villegas, 33, of Sacramento pleaded guilty to mail fraud on Dec. 14 and Kathleen DeLapp, 47, of Auburn pleaded guilty to misprision, or concealing knowledge, of felony on Dec. 9. Robert Martinson, 48, of Newcastle, pleaded guilty to mail fraud on Jan. 8.
According to court documents, the defendants schemed to defraud mortgage lenders by submitting fraudulent loan applications in the names of straw buyers and other investors.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice news release, Martinson ran a branch of MAC Real Estate Services out of a gym on Watt Avenue in North Highlands, which he owned but operated under his wife's name and license. Martinson purchased dozens of homes throughout the Sacramento area as investment properties and placed title to them in "Sheryl's LLC."
The release gave this account:
In 2005, as the housing market began to slow, officials said, Martinson unloaded properties from Sheryl's LLC using straw buyers.
DeLapp was a loan processor for MAC Real Estate Services and an account executive for Aegis Mortgage. She processed some of the loans for Martinson's buyers.
When DeLapp could not process the loans through Aegis, she, for a fee, assisted Martinson in facilitating real estate loans with other lenders.
DeLapp processed loan applications from Martinson that contained inconsistent representations to the lender about occupying the property, officials said.
Co-defendants Rick Villegas and his wife at the time, Melissa Villegas, were mortgage loan officers working out of their home under the license of Landmark Realty Co.
In 2006, their firm brokered six home loans that contained materially false representations concerning the borrowers' income, employment history and intent to occupy the homes as the primary residence.
Officials said Melissa Villegas assisted on two of the loan applications, knowing that the applications contained false declarations of primary residence, false employment and false income information.
Rick Villegas signed one of the applications as the loan interviewer, knowing that the interview never occurred and that information on the loan applications was false, officials said.
Melissa Villegas is scheduled for sentencing on March 11, Martinson on Feb. 25, and DeLapp and Rick Villegas on March 4.
The case is the product of a investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and the California Department of Real Estate. Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Carlberg is prosecuting the case.
Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.