Humble woman pleads guilty to mortgage scheme
LAFAYETTE, LA Mary L. Francois, 49, the owner of America's Best Mortgage and Creative Solutions in St. Martinville, was accused of submitting false loan applications on behalf of clients to mortgage lenders. Francois also falsified documents to make it appear borrowers were purchasing homes for significantly higher amounts than the actual purchase price. Francois worked out agreements with sellers that allowed her to pocket the difference as part of her "payment for obtaining the loan," according to the stipulated factual basis for her guilty plea. The scheme began in September 2005 and continued through February 2008, resulting in about $2.3 million in mortgages for people who did not have the income or credit rating necessary to obtain loans, records show. A federal grand jury in September indicted Francois on 32 counts of wire fraud. The two counts she pleaded guilty to involved a loan obtained on behalf of a client who had a $13 balance in her checking account, no significant employment and erratic payments of rent. The factual basis for her plea said Francois gave the woman a check for $22,000, then required the woman give her a check for the same amount. Francis then had the woman deposit the money and obtain a balance statement reflecting she had about $21,000 in her account, the statement said. In November 2005, Francois had the account balance document, which reflected a balance of $21,000.99, wired to the lending institution, the statement said. At Francois' request, an employee of her company signed a document claiming to be the apartment manager where the woman rented, falsely stating the woman always paid her rent on time, the statement said. The document also was wired to the lender. Francois also submitted paperwork to the lender saying the woman was purchasing the home for $115,000, when the actual sales price was $93,000, the statement said. That document was wired in October 2005. The remainder of the money was paid to Francois' company, Creative Solutions, the statement said. Francois primarily obtained loans using WMC Mortgage Corp. and Wilmington Finance, both located outside of Louisiana. Francois faces a possible maximum 20-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $250,000 on each of the two counts. She remains out on bail and will be sentenced later.