Four people were convicted in Summit County Common Pleas Court for taking part in a mortgage fraud scheme in Summit and Stark counties, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Wednesday.
Brandon Shepherd, owner of Freedom Financial, the CORE Foundation, and the Sberna Foundation, pleaded guilty this week to two counts of theft and was sentenced to two years in prison. An employee, Garland Ward of Norton, pleaded guilty to attempted theft and received a six-month sentence.
Shepherd, of Bath Township, arranged for the sale of 24 properties in Summit and Stark counties at prices that were inflated by phony appraisals.
Appraisers Laura Habre George of Rocky River and Jeff Sadler of Canton pleaded guilty to charges of telecommunications fraud and falsification, respectively. Many of their appraisals either omitted information regarding the poor condition of the properties or listed improvements to the home that were never actually made, authorities said.
“The people who bought these homes had no idea what they were actually buying into,” DeWine said in a prepared statement. “Suddenly these victims found themselves with rundown properties that they could not sell and loan payments that they could not make.”
Most of the homes went into foreclosure, and several were torn down.
Wells Fargo and Argent loaned most of the $1 million used to finance the properties. Argent is now out of business.
It is estimated that Shepherd, who kept the majority of the scheme’s profit, made more than $100,000 off the sale of the homes.
George was sentenced to probation, and Sadler will be sentenced at a later late.
The Summit County Mortgage Task Force, which was formed as part of the Attorney General’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, investigated the case.