Man accused of running $45M mortgage fraud appears in Charleston court
The former real estate agency owner accused of running a $45 million mortgage fraud made his first appearance today in federal court in Charleston.
During a brief hearing, Scott M. Wickersham told U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks that he was aware of the charges against him and the potential penalties.
He remains free on a $5,000 unsecured bond set today. The government had no objections.
Prosecutors have tied Wickersham and unidentified “others” to a property-flipping scheme involving more than 80 real estate deals, mostly in the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia. The transactions including 19 in the Charleston area.
The estimated losses total more than $20 million, according to with U.S. District Court documents that were made public last week.
Wickersham, 33, already has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation.
No one else has been charged.
Wickersham was a loan officer for North American Mortgage Group LLC and a real estate agent and part-owner of Realty Executives of Coastal Carolina. Both businesses operated out of an office on Trolley Road in Summerville.
Prosecutors said Wickersham and co-conspirators sought “to unlawfully enrich themselves” by submitting falsified loan documents and inflated appraisals to mortgage lenders, including companies that are insured by the U.S. government.
After the sellers were paid, some the inflated loan proceeds went to Wickersham and others in the form of large commissions or “signing bonuses” from the buyers they had recruited.
The deals took place between April 2006 and November 2007, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The scheme unraveled when real estate sales and property values began to falter about five years ago.
Wickersham faces up to 36 years in prison and fines totaling $1.5 million based on one count each of mail fraud, wire fraud and bank fraud, according to his plea agreement. He also has agreed to pay the Internal Revenue Service about $257,000 in restitution based on two counts of filing false tax returns.
The government had requested that Wickersham turn in his passport, but he does not have one, according to his attorney, Leon Stavrinakas.