Nevada Man Pleads Guilty to Social Security Disability Fraud, Sentenced to 37 Months for Mortgage Fraud

Friday, December 14, 2012
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In the words of a Washington-based federal prosecutor, Alex Soria's conviction for defrauding distressed homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages won't deter the Las Vegas man from committing more crimes.

"Mr. Soria is all but certain to re-offend," wrote Brian Young, a trial attorney with the Justice Department's Fraud Section, in a sentencing memorandum.

Young sought a 37-month prison term for Soria in the wake of his latest mortgage fraud scheme, which Young said preyed upon desperate homeowners. The prosecutor contended Soria was committing fraud even while in federal custody facing fraud charges.

This week, Senior U.S. District Judge Lloyd George ordered the 65-year-old Soria to spend 37 months behind bars.

George also ordered Soria to pay $320,206 in restitution and serve three years of supervised release after his prison term.

Soria pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud in the mortgage scheme, which occurred between May 2008 and January 2010.

He also pleaded guilty to theft of government funds in a separate plot to illegally collect $208,106 in disability benefits from the U.S. Social Security Administration between 1990 and 2010.

When he applied for federal disability benefits in 1990, Soria indicated that eye and kidney problems kept him from working. He admitted in his plea agreement that he continued to collect the benefits long after he returned to work in the mortgage business.

Prosecutors contend that he also owes $112,160 to 109 victims of the mortgage fraud scheme.

Soria, who had worked in the mortgage lending business since 1970, was indicted in April 2011.

The indictment charged Soria with falsely telling homeowners that he was a loan officer with Amwest Capital and that he could help them get relief with their mortgages through two federal programs.

He admitted in his plea agreement that he provided homeowners with phony letters saying they were pre-qualified for a new loan and concealed that he was not licensed to act as a mortgage agent.

"The victim impact statements submitted to the court make clear that the homeowners believed Mr. Soria's bill of goods because they were behind on their mortgages, desperate to stay in their homes and were out of options," Young wrote in his sentencing memorandum. "Many of the victims' financial hardships were caused or exacerbated by personal tragedy."

One homeowner told Soria she couldn't afford her monthly mortgage because she lost income while caring for her ailing sister, Young said. Another homeowner suffered unexpected medical expenses after being diagnosed with bone cancer.

Soria's attorney Michael Sanft did not return phone calls.

But in a letter to the Las Vegas Review-Journal two months before his sentencing, Soria denied wrongdoing and said he was being persecuted by the government.

"I tried to legitimately help distraught homeowners save their homes from illegal and fraudulent foreclosures, trustee's sales and ultimate evictions," he wrote.

He said he took the plea deal because of his "age, medical condition and poverty status." He said he is legally blind in one eye because of a "diabetic condition" and has had a "dual-organ" transplant.

"For the past 13 months now, I have been languishing in prison, suffering infections and diseases," he said.

"You might win one battle with the feds," he added, "but you'll lose the war."

Young, however, argued in his memorandum that Soria's federal indictment did not stop him from committing crimes.

From his federal jail cell in Pahrump, Young wrote, Soria encouraged his girlfriend in correspondence to keep alive another mortgage fraud scheme. The Nevada attorney general's office had earlier charged Soria in the scam.

"Additionally, Mr. Soria mailed from the detention center a sales contract for 2,000 barrels of Nigerian crude oil for which Mr. Soria purports to be a broker," Young said.

"While the government has admittedly not investigated this scheme exhaustively, one could be forgiven for questioning the legitimacy of a deal to broker large amounts of Nigerian crude oil from a holding cell in the federal detention center in Pahrump."