Las Vegas home builder indicted in mortgage fraud case


A Las Vegas home builder was indicted Wednesday after federal authorities accused him of arranging to sell his houses at inflated prices as part of a scheme to "kick back" money from mortgage loans to buyers and their associates.

Paul Wagner, owner of Wagner Homes, was one of 123 defendants who were charged, convicted or sentenced in Las Vegas during Operation Stolen Dreams. The nationwide initiative, which began March 1, was a collective enforcement effort aimed at confronting mortgage fraud.

Wagner was the only builder who was prosecuted in Las Vegas as part of Operation Stolen Dreams.

Natalie Collins, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, said Wagner previously was charged in a criminal complaint with one count of conspiracy. The federal indictment replaces the complaint.

The indictment charges Wagner with conspiracy, six counts of bank fraud and three counts of wire fraud. Collins said prosecutors also are seeking the forfeiture of $2.7 million.

A summons was issued for Wagner, who is free on his own recognizance. He is scheduled to appear for an arraignment on Aug. 13 before U.S. Magistrate Judge George Foley Jr.

Wagner's attorney, John Momot Jr., could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

According to the indictment, Wagner conspired to commit bank fraud and wire fraud from about 2007 to about 2009.

"It was part of the conspiracy that the defendant, a home builder, arranged to sell his houses at inflated prices in order to fraudulently kick back large amounts of money from the mortgage loan to the buyers and those working with the buyers as incentives for them to buy houses," the indictment alleges.

The conspiracy involved nine Las Vegas houses, according to the document.

Michael Rawlins, a special agent with the FBI, participated in the investigation of Wagner and prepared an affidavit for the criminal complaint. Rawlins wrote the following in his affidavit:

"The investigation has disclosed that from 2005 to 2009 Wagner sold more than 100 homes, and that almost every home is either in foreclosure, or has already been foreclosed upon by the victim lender."

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

 

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