HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Four men have been sentenced to prison and ordered to pay millions in restitution for committing fraud.
Justin Lee Rooks, 33, of Loris; developer Michael Thomas Bartlett, 48, of Myrtle Beach; closing attorney, Robert Harold Melville, Jr., 52, of Lake Waccawaw; and Anthony Michael Tew, 33, of Conway were found guilty in a Wilmington area mortgage fraud scheme, according to the United States Attorney's Office.
In 2012, Rooks and Bartlett pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud, while Melville pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud.
Investigators say between May of 2004 and August of 2008, Rooks, Bartlett and others "conspired to defraud banks and lenders in connection with the purchase, development, and resale of properties in Columbus, Brunswick, and New Hanover counties."
The men allegedly hosted seminars in Raleigh. At the seminars, "the conspirators told the buyers that the buyers would not have to make a down payment or interest payments on the loans, and that the properties purchased in their names would be sold within twelve months," according to court documents.
Documents state the conspirators "enticed the buyers to participate in the transactions and engaged in various actions to make it appear to the banks and lenders that the buyers were qualified for the loans."
Apparently, the banks and lenders who loaned funds to the buyers were not informed of the cash kickbacks to the buyers by the conspirators.
Ultimately, according to the charging documents, the conspirators were unable to sell many of the properties purchased in the names of the buyers.
As a result, documents state the buyers did not have the means to repay all of the loans obtained in the names of the buyers and many of the loans went into default.
The banks and lenders were forced to sell the properties at a substantial loss.
Melville was sentenced to serve 31 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and further ordered to pay $1,333,020.00 in restitution.
Rooks was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison, 5 years of supervised release, and further ordered to pay $1,766,511.00 in restitution.
Bartlett was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison, 5 years of supervised release, and further ordered to pay $1,333,020.00 in restitution.
Tew was sentenced to serve 18 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and further ordered to pay $883,420.00 in restitution.