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Mortgage task force expands indictments

| Thursday, March 28, 2013, 11:09 a.m.

A federal grand jury expanded charges against two real estate agents and indicted two others in a 20-count superseding indictment in wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy amid an investigation into mortgage fraud.

The four and others who have pleaded guilty participated in a conspiracy that involved more than 300 properties and $75 million in fraudulent loans, prosecutors say.

Dov Ratchkauskas and George Kubini, principals in Admiral Capital and other real estate companies, were indicted in January 2011 and now face more charges under the indictment filed Tuesday, based on work by the Western Pennsylvania Mortgage Fraud Task Force.

Kubini, 48, of Verona and Ratchkauskas, 46, of Pittsburgh sold property at overstated prices to buyers who couldn't qualify legitimately for loans, prosecutors say. The homes were financed through fraudulent documents submitted to lenders, including some that falsely showed down payments.

The government is seeking return from Kubini and Ratchkauskas of $1 million in cash and property, which were the gross proceeds of their scheme between November 2005 and December 2008.

Also indicted were Arthur Smith, 63, of Pittsburgh, an attorney who specialized in closing real estate transactions, and Sandra Svaranovic, 52, of Pittsburgh, an appraiser, who are charged with wire fraud and bank fraud.

According to the indictment, Smith submitted to lenders settlement statements that overstated the sales prices of properties and falsely showed that purchasers made payments, or failed to report payments that were made. Smith also failed to file tax forms that showed sales proceeds given to Kubini and Ratchkauskas.

Svaranovic prepared appraisals that overstated the value of properties that served as collateral for loans, the indictment said.

All four engaged in a wire fraud scheme that caused transfers from lenders to accounts of closing agents. Lenders defrauded included Chase, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

Smith also withdrew money from an escrow account to cover withdrawals made for his personal benefit, the indictment said, and he failed to federal tax returns for 2007, 2008 and 2009. Kubini filed false tax returns for 2008 and 2010, it said.

Kubini, Ratchkauskas and Smith were involved in a money laundering conspiracy to disguise the source and ownership of money involved in their fraud scheme.

According to the U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh, other members of the conspiracy who pleaded guilty included Robert Arakelian, who operated Pittsburgh Home Loans, and Rhonda and Rochelle Roscoe, who operated a mortgage broker business called Riverside Mortgage.

Others who pleaded guilty included Bartholomew Matto, Cynthia Pielin and Crystal Spreng, who all worked at financial institutions. They signed fraudulent verifications of deposit that showed borrowers had funds in their accounts to make the payments at closings.

Also pleading guilty were Daniel Sporrer, an attorney who executed fraudulent settlement statements, and Karen Atkison, an assistant to Sporrer.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan T. Conway is prosecuting the case.

John D. Oravecz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7882 or joravecz@tribweb.com.

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