Mortgage Fraud Scheme Leader Sentenced to Prison

Mortgage Fraud Scheme Leader Sentenced to Prison
Mortgage Fraud Scheme Leader Sentenced to Prison

Mortgage Fraud Scheme Leader Imprisoned

James Christopher Castle, 57, a former resident of Petaluma, California, received a 15-year prison term today for his role in a bank fraud scheme that aimed to illegally cancel mortgages so that he could profit from the subsequent home sales.

Castle was extradited from Australia to the United States in May 2020, according to the evidence presented at trial. When it became apparent that his plan was failing in 2011, Castle fled to New Zealand and then Australia. Castle was returned to the United States by the U.S. Marshals Service to face trial there after a three-year extradition procedure.

Castle was the mastermind behind a plot that ran a “mortgage elimination programme” that was supposed to assist struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure between April 22, 2010, and November 18, 2011. Residential properties’ chains of title were fraudulently altered by the conspirators, who then sold the houses and pocketed the money.

Homeowners were enrolled as members of Shon-te-East-a, Walks With Spirit, or its successor organisation Pillow Foundation as a condition of taking part in the “mortgage elimination programme” by the conspirators. The conspirators claimed that these organisations would provide defence against the banks to the homeowners.

Castle oversaw other conspirators in all facets of the mortgage elimination programme, including luring homeowners into the scheme, gathering the required records, and assisting in the sale of the homes.

He would have a phoney deed of trust created and recorded once the homeowner enrolled with Shon-te-East-a or Pillow Foundation, giving the appearance that the homeowner had refinanced the mortgage loan with a different lender. The homeowner had no debt to the ostensible new lender because it was a false organisation run by the conspirators.

The process’ next step also had a written record. In order to give the impression that the real mortgage loan had been discharged and the real lienholder no longer had a security interest in the property, the conspirators had a fake deed of reconveyance recorded.

The home was put up for sale by the conspirators, who split the proceeds with the homeowners and their fellow conspirators despite the title appearing to be clear.

A total of 37 properties were sold as a result of the Shon-te-Easta plot. On an additional 100 homes, the conspirators falsely recorded documents, but they were unable to sell them before the scheme came to an end.

A jury found Castle responsible for 35 counts of bank fraud on August 2, 2021.

Phillip A. Talbert, US Attorney, made the declaration.

Three additional co-defendants have already pleaded guilty. Remus A. Kirkpatrick, 65, a former resident of Oceanside, California, pleaded guilty to one count of making false writings about lending associations on April 21, 2017, and was given a six-year prison sentence.

Michael Romano, 75, of Benicia, California, admitted guilt to conspiracy on May 26, 2017, and was given a three-year prison term. Laura Pezzi, of Roseville, California, pleaded guilty to creating false writings about lending associations on July 14, 2017, and she was given time served.

On September 4, 2015, Tisha Trites and Todd Smith, both of San Diego, California, entered guilty pleas to charges related to one another. Trites will be sentenced on June 14, 2022, while Smith received a two-year prison term.

Following a jury trial in December 2017, two additional co-defendants, Larry Todt, 70, of Malibu, California, and George B. Larsen, 60, of San Rafael, California, were found guilty of conspiracy and bank fraud. Todt received a sentence of 7 years and 3 months in prison, while Larsen received a 10 year sentence.

While awaiting trial, co-defendant John Michael DiChiara passed away on August 24, 2019.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation gave rise to this case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Audrey B. Hemesath.

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