Ex-Ridgewood woman pleads guilty in $4.7M N.J. mortgage fraud
Tuesday, January 4, 2011 Last updated: Tuesday January 4, 2011, 7:47 PM
BY ERIK SHILLING
TRENTON — A former Ridgewood woman on Tuesday admitted her role in a scheme that defrauded lenders and generated more than $4.7 million in fraudulent home mortgages, prosecutors said.
Taya Romano, 34, of Edmund, Okla., had been negotiating a plea deal with federal prosecutors since she was arrested and charged in January, authorities said.
Romano, who also used the alias Taya Waldon, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a single count of mail fraud. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
The scheme operated for seven months in 2007 and 2008, and involved 12 properties in Paterson and one in East Orange.
Brian J. Neary, a lawyer for Romano, did not immediately return a phone call for comment.
Romano would fill out applications for buyers and falsely indicate that they were making a down payment, which allowed the buyers to qualify for a loan large enough to cover the purchase price, authorities said. In fact, the buyers were told they were receiving no-money-down loans, according to a complaint. The down payments came from the proceeds of the loan.
The scheme operated from December 2007 to June 2008, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Romano later acknowledged that lenders would not have given the money to the buyers had they known that she was covering their down payments.
False closing documents were generated as a result of the fraud and mailed by Federal Express, prosecutors said, resulting in the mail fraud charge.
The scheme netted Romano “substantial profits” when she sold the properties to buyers at inflated prices, prosecutors said, but the exact amount is in dispute. If the court finds that the amount Romano received was more than $1 million, a stiffer sentence could be imposed because of federal sentencing guidelines, according to court documents.
The documents also do not specify the amount of money lenders lost in the scheme, saying only that it was more than $200,000 but less than $7 million.
An accomplice, Elizabeth Labruna, 53, of Little Falls, who acted as a settlement agent at closing transactions, pleaded guilty on Nov. 1 of last year to one count of mail fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 7. She faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
E-mail: [email protected]