Monday, September 3, 2012

Ex-NH Insurance Agent Dodges Prison For Preparing Two Sets Of Policies Used To Dupe Banks Into Financing Sale Leaseback Equity Stripping Ripoffs

In Concord, New Hampshire, The Associated Press reports:

  • A former insurance agent who said he believed he was helping financially distressed homeowners remain in their homes but who lied to federal investigators about insurance policies was placed on probation and fined $5,000 in federal court on Tuesday.

    Robert Hayden operated the State Farm Insurance Agency in Goffstown when he was recruited at a business networking meeting by the organization’s president, Michael Prieto, to assist him in a new venture in 2005.

    Prosecutors in their indictment of Prieto, formerly of Nashua, say his venture, which he touted as a “rescue plan” for financially distressed homeowners, was fraudulent. They say Prieto, who’s scheduled to stand trial in November, persuaded homeowners to sell their homes to his associates for below-market prices in exchange for low rent payments and the promise they could repurchase their homes later for reasonable prices.

    Prosecutors say Prieto then stripped whatever equity there was in the homes and refinanced them for much larger sums to pull more money out of the deals.

    Hayden, of Lyndeborough, pleaded guilty to initially lying to federal agents when he was questioned about two sets of insurance policies he drew up for each of Prieto’s acquisitions – the rental insurance policy that he filed with his agency and the owner’s policy that enabled Prieto to secure the inflated mortgages.

    I thought I was helping people stay in their homes, their lives and their dreams, and it wasn’t the case,” Hayden, 54, told U.S. District Judge Joseph Laplante in Concord.

    Prosecutors say Prieto ultimately defaulted on the mortgages he had orchestrated, with the principle amount exceeding $13 million.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney William Morse told the judge he has no evidence Hayden knew about the extent of the scheme or benefited beyond the small commissions he received for writing the policies.

    Attorney Michael Connelly, who represents Hayden, emphasized in court and in briefs filed in the case that Prieto pitched his venture at a meeting of the Business Networking International group meeting in Nashua.

    The openness with which Mr. Prieto announced the program, among a group of reputable professionals, and the benevolent stated purpose behind the program made it seem to Mr. Hayden like a legitimate arrangement,” Connelly said.

    Hayden has agreed to testify against Prieto.

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