CHARLOTTE – John Wayne Perry Jr., 33, of Charlotte, pleaded guilty Monday to racketeering conspiracy for his part in a widespread, $75 million mortgage fraud and money laundering scheme, the investigation of which became known as “Operation Wax House.”
Perry was the last defendant scheduled for trial – on Dec. 8 – when he entered the plea at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina in Charlotte. Eighty-nine defendants have either pleaded guilty or been convicted of charges stemming from the investigation, and two defendants are international fugitives.
Perry, who was released on bond pending sentencing, faces 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Twenty-four others are also awaiting sentencing.
Perry was identified as a “promoter” in the investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina, which began in 2007 and ended with a 2012 indictment, according to a release from the agency.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that Perry arranged for a straw buyer who “he had used in other mortgage fraud transactions throughout North Carolina” for the purchase of a million-dollar home in Waxhaw. According to court documents, Perry received more than $200,000 in loan proceeds and laundered it through his business account, claiming it was for nonexistent brick work when it was actually a kickback to Perry and others.
Those convicted include attorneys, paralegals, mortgage brokers, real estate agents, builders, bank employees, straw buyers, notaries public, financiers and promoters.
The scheme involved members agreeing with a builder or seller to purchase a property at a set price, then arranging to have a “straw buyer” purchase it at between $200,000 and $500,000 more than the true price, according to the charges. A lender would make a loan based on the inflated prices, and the difference between the true price and inflated price would be distributed among participants after the closing.
The homes were in upscale neighborhoods, including Providence Downs South, Woodhall, Chatelaine, Skyecroft, Firethorne, Piper Glen and Stratford on Providence in southern Mecklenburg and northeastern Union counties.
Participants were accused of obtaining the mortgages through falsified documentation that:
- Misrepresented the buyer’s income, assets, place of employment, and intent to occupy the home.
- Failed to disclose the true agreed-upon price.
- Claimed the purchaser was making a down payment.
- Neglected to accurately account for the distribution of the mortgage loan proceeds.
When the housing bubble burst and property values deflated, many of the properties went into foreclosure, leaving lenders with properties that were worth substantially less than the amount of money they loaned for the purchase.
The only remaining defendants are two international fugitives:
- Ramin Amini, 45, of Tehran, Iran, who was identified as a leader and promoter and is charged with racketeering conspiracy, mortgage fraud and money laundering conspiracy.
- Nazeere Saddig, 41, formerly of Charlotte, who was identified as a promoter and buyer and is charged with racketeering conspiracy and mortgage fraud.
The investigation was handled by the FBI’s Charlotte Division and the IRS’ Criminal Division as part of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, with assistance from the Securities Division of the N.C. Secretary of State.