On May 30, 2012, a federal grand jury in Phoenix returned a 43 count indictment against ten individuals, which includes charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, false statements, false representation of Social Security number, and aggravated identity theft. On June 21, 2012, Joel Martinez, 41, of Phoenix, Ariz., was ordered detained pending trial on those charges.
The other nine individuals charged in the indictment are:
- Julio Cesar Esquivel Reyes, 38;
- Estefana Salazar Olivares, 38, wife of Esquivel Reyes;
- Claudia Salazar Olivares, 31, sister-in-law of Esquivel Reyes;
- Martha Elena Gonzalez, 39, sister-in-law of Esquivel Reyes;
- Andres Esquivel, 64, father of Esquivel Reyes;
- Evangelina Gardner, 49, girlfriend of Esquivel Reyes’s father;
- Solomon Moses Worden, 36;
- Edgar Lira, 40; and
- Luis Antonio Maldonado Tovar, 48, pastor of Grupo Amistad Church in Phoenix.
The indictment alleges that between June of 2001 and May of 2012, the defendants purchased a number of properties throughout the Valley, with Esquivel Reyes and Evangelina Gardner acting as real estate agents for a number of the transactions and Estefana Olivares, Martha Gonzalez, and Claudia Olivares processing many of the loans. The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to:
- Obtain mortgage loans by providing false information to lenders;
- Use false information to refinance the fraudulently obtained mortgage loans and receive “cash back” prior to defaulting on the loans;
- Obtain commissions from the sale of properties by and between conspirators; and
- Sell fraudulently obtained properties to other members of the conspiracy for drastically reduced prices through short sales;
Convictions for conspiracy and false representation of a Social Security number each carry a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. Convictions for wire fraud affecting a financial institution and false statements to a lending institution each carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine, or both. A conviction for aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory penalty of 2 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations in Phoenix and the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation. The prosecution is being handled by Jennifer Levinson, assistant U.S. attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.