July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Real estate agent gets 10 years in mortgage fraud case

A Strongsville real estate agent was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for his role in a $3.3 million mortgage fraud scheme involving luxury homes in Medina County.

Thomas G. France, 44, was sentenced Thursday to more 125 months prison and ordered to pay more than $3 million in restitution by U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent.

In April, a jury in U.S. District Court in Cleveland found France guilty of conspiracy and bank fraud.

France was one of three men involved in the mortgage fraud scheme, according to Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

Joseph Beccia, 63, of Richfield, testified at France’s trial after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors. He was sentenced Thursday to two years in prison and ordered to pay more than $3 million in restitution.

Alex Blackmore, 50, of Bronx, New York, was sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay $1.1 million in restitution.

According to court documents, Beccia’s company, Horizon Construction, built five luxury homes in Medina County — three in Medina Township and two in Montville Township — between the spring of 2006 and the summer of 2007, just as the U.S. housing market was collapsing.

The Medina Township homes — two on Sutton Lane and one on Lake Forest Trail — and the Montville Township homes — on Fox Glen Drive and Perian Court — were offered for sale at their true market values, ranging from $395,000 to $925,000, according to court documents.

But Beccia was unable to sell the properties and was falling deeper into debt, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors said Beccia was approached by France who said that Joseph Jones, who previously had been convicted in another mortgage fraud scheme, had a “system” that would allow Beccia to sell the homes if he agreed to take the five homes off the market temporarily and re-list them at significantly inflated prices.

According to the indictment, Blackmore agreed to act as purchaser of the properties as a “straw buyer” using falsified documents.

France re-listed the five homes at inflated purchase prices, ranging from $647,000 to $1.4 million, according to court documents.

All five properties went into foreclosure, resulting in a total loss of approximately $3.3 million to the banks that had issued the mortgages, according to court documents.

The case was investigated by the Cleveland offices of the FBI and the Secret Service.

The prosecutor was Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark S. Bennett.

Contact reporter David Knox at (330) 721-4065 or dknox@medina-gazette.com.