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A Highland couple has been indicted on more charges in an alleged real estate fraud scheme that involved using straw buyers and inflated appraisals to obtain loans in excess of what the houses were actually selling for.
Portia Louder, 40, and Chad Louder, 42, both of Highland, are now facing 19 charges of fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and making false statements to financial institutions, along with Portia Louder's brother, Dustin Wilcox, 35, also of Highland.
The Louders originally were charged with 11 counts in October. Besides adding Wilcox as a defendant, the superseding indictment filed Wednesday in federal court in Salt Lake City also includes four more properties in addition to the three of the original indictment.
According to the indictment, the trio targeted expensive homes for purchase, especially those sold by owners and not on the Multiple Listing Service.
Portia Louder commissioned appraisals on properties even though she often was not listed as the purchaser or the seller, paying as much as $5,000 for an appraisal even though the average costs was around $500 or about $1,500 for a high-end home, according to the indictment. From 2006 through 2007, the indictment alleges she paid about $380,000 to appraisers.
Using straw buyers, the trio then allegedly raised the purchase price of a home without the lender's learning of the actual sales price set by the owner.
For example, according to the indictment, the sellers of a home on West Pfeifferhorn Drive in Alpine received $1.34 million in June 2006 while the transaction closed for $2.2 million.
Federal prosecutors also are seeking forfeiture of $3.9 million from Portia Louder, close to $2.5 million from Chad Louder and about $2.2 million from Dustin Wilcox.
The maximum penalty for making false statements to a financial institution is up to 30 years in prison with a potential fine of up to $1 million, while wire fraud carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison, money laundering and conspiracy up to 10 years, with possible fines of up to $250,000.
The case was investigated by the FBI, IRS and U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah.