Change-of-plea hearing set in $45 million South Carolina mortgage fraud
A Summerville man charged with masterminding a $45 million mortgage fraud plans to formally change his plea later this month.
District Judge Sol Blatt in Charleston scheduled a hearing for Dec. 12 in the case of Scott M. Wickersham, who previously pleaded not guilty. He is free on $5,000 bail.
Wickersham is a former real estate agency owner and mortgage loan officer. Government prosecutors have tied him and unidentified “others” to a widespread property-flipping scheme involving at least 86 real estate deals, mostly in the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia.
The transactions include 19 sales in the Charleston area.
The estimated losses to lenders total more than $20 million, according to court documents.
Wickersham previously 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 unidentified co-conspirators sought “to unlawfully enrich themselves” by submitting falsified loan documents and inflated appraisals to mortgage lenders, including banks that are insured by the federal government.
After the sellers were paid, some of the inflated loan proceeds went to Wickersham and others in the form of large commissions or bonuses from buyers they had recruited.
The operators of the scheme also agreed to find renters or pay mortgages for the buyers until the properties could be resold at a profit, prosecutors said.
The deals took place between April 2006 and November 2007, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. 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.
Editor's note: Previous versions of this story contained an incorrect hearing date. The Post and Courier regrets the error.
Reach John McDermott at 937-5572.