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Parkland woman pleads guilty to Palm Beach, Broward scams

By Palm Beach

FORT LAUDERDALE — A Parkland woman who owned a title service company has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud charges stemming from two separate mortgage fraud scams involving properties in Palm Beach and Browad counties.

Michelle Austin-Wilks 38 of Parkland faces up to 20 years in prison on the conspiracy charge and a maxium of 30 years on each of four wire fraud county when goes before federal Judge James I. Cohn for sentencing on June. 15.

In one case, Austin-Wilks, who was president of Direct Title & Escrow Services Inc.,  falsified  settlement statements so that they indicated that purported homebuyers were using their own money to cover closing costs in real estate deals in Palm Beach County.  The buyers, however, were merely fronts used by the scammers to fool lenders.  Austin-Wilks also falsely told  lenders that loan proceeds had been properly distributed; instead, she had disbursed money to one of her companies to cover “processing fees.”

The other case involved property in Broward County, with the schemers again fraudulently buying and selling homes through straw parties. The straw buyers obtained inflated mortgages based on loan applications and settlement statements that contained false information. Austin-Wilks again provided lenders with falsified documents to further the scam.

Five others, including a Boynton Beach man and a West Palm Beach resident, have pleaded guilty for their roles in the two scams; four have received prison sentences.

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APRIL 4, 2012 click to go home
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