(Trinidad Express) A Trinidadian man pleaded guilty to bank fraud involving numerous home equity line of credit loans today in the United States of America, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Justice Department statement said: “Garth Anthony Gardner, 49, a citizen of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, has pled guilty to charges involving a scheme in which he made misrepresentations to apply for and obtain more than US$3 million in multiple home equity line of credit loans.”
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu and Acting Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Washington D.C. Field Office.
Gardner pled guilty on July 2, 2018, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to two counts of bank fraud. Each charge carries a statutory maximum of 30 years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, he faces an estimated range of 51 to 63 months in prison and a fine of up to US$100,000. The plea agreement calls for him to pay US$3,165,294 in restitution to 24 financial institutions. It also calls for him to pay a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of US$2,048,446.
U.S. Judge Christopher Cooper scheduled sentencing for September 24, 2018.
According to the government’s evidence, in October 2003, Gardner purchased a property in the 5100 block of 13th Street NW, using the Social Security number of another person and falsely representing himself as a U.S. citizen.
The Justice Department said: “In May 2005, he used a corporation that he owned to purchase a second property in the 1300 block of Dexter Terrace SE. Gardner transferred ownership of the second property from the company to himself for US$10. Next, Gardner applied for a series of home equity line of credit loans using the two properties as collateral.”
By settling these loans in close proximity to each other, Gardner minimized the banks’ ability to learn about the other loans. From August to October 2004, Gardner obtained 12 home equity line of credit loans from 12 different banks secured by the 13th Street property, totaling approximately US$1.4 million.
Between March and April 2006, Gardner applied for 13, and obtained 12, such loans from 12 banks, secured by the Dexter Terrace property, totaling approximately US$1.9 million, the Justice Department said.
Around February 2008, Gardner stopped making payments and defaulted on all of the loans. “The banks discovered Gardner’s fraudulent conduct after initiating foreclosure proceedings on the properties,” the Justice Department said.
Gardner admitted that he used a portion of the proceeds from the fraudulent scheme to purchase 15 silver bars, which the government recovered and liquidated for about US$1.1 million.
Gardner was arrested in Frankfurt, Germany in May 2017, and was extradited to the District in February 2018, to face the charges that had been pending since 2014. He remains in custody pending his sentencing.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Liu and Acting Special Agent in Charge Jackson commended the work performed by those who investigated the case from the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the Washington Field Office of the U.S. Secret Service and the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration. They acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michelle Bradford, David A. Last, Diane Lucas and Denise A. Simmonds, and Paralegal Specialist Aisha Keys.