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Reno lender taken over by regulators

Regulators took over Cetus Mortgage, a closed Reno-based hard-money lender, citing evidence that investor signatures were forged and other improper actions occurred, officials announced Tuesday.

Cetus solicited money from individual and institutional investors and used the money to make loans mostly for single-family home construction. Cetus owner Marcilin “Marcie” Benvin allowed her license to expire on June 30.

Joseph Waltuch, commissioner of the Mortgage Lending Division, on Monday directed Benvin to turn over all property, bank accounts and records of the firm.

Estimates of loans outstanding and the number of loans weren’t available Tuesday.

“Over the next several days, the division will be conducting an extensive review of Cetus’ books and records, at which time it will have a better understanding on the number of loans outstanding, the dollar amounts thereof, and the number of investors involved,” the division said in a statement.

Attempts to reach Benvin and her attorney for comment failed. She testified before the Nevada Legislature as president of the Nevada Association of Mortgage Brokers in 2007 in favor of a successful bill that prohibited brokers from making so-called “no-documentation loans” for residential lenders.

In recent months, hard-money lenders have been struggling from the real estate bust and from increasing numbers of problem loans.

A number of hard-money lenders in Nevada have failed in recent years, the largest being USA Capital of Las Vegas, which had 6,000 investors and $922 million in loans when it filed for bankruptcy in April 2006.

At Cetus, investor signatures had been forged on documents transferring properties, according to complaints received by the division.

The mortgage division order mentions allegations that some property deeds were altered, construction loans were made for projects that had not broken ground for several months, and loans were extended without extension agreements.

In a meeting with the division, Benvin admitted that she made payments to borrowers on behalf of J.E. Morros Construction, which had not made payments on loans, the order said. Benvin used money from a trust account for the payments for Morros, according to the document.

Benvin said she expected Morros to receive money from a pending land and construction loan and to use the proceeds to pay for existing loans, according to the order.

Benvin also said Cetus was unable to pay its office rent and other bills. The division requested numerous financial records but received only a list of delinquent loans, which Cetus previously failed to report, as required.

Contact reporter John Edwards at jedwards@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0420.

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