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A West Mifflin man who once ran one of the largest mortgage brokerage businesses in the Pittsburgh area pleaded guilty this week in federal court to conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud.
James Nassida, 49, faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, said Soo C. Song, acting U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh, in a prepared statement.
Sentencing before Senior U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose has been scheduled for Jan. 10, a spokeswoman said.
Nassida and his sister, Janna Nassida, were convicted in 2016 of conspiring to submit fraudulent mortgage applications through their business, Century III Home Equity in Baldwin.
But James Nassida was granted a new trial earlier this year after Ambrose concluded that his attorney had fallen asleep numerous times during the first trial, denying him of his right to legal representation.
Nassida's sister committed suicide in November 2016, following the first trial, according to court officials and published reports. The plea agreement eliminates the need for the new trial.
James Nassida was president of Century III Home Equity during the so-called housing "bubble" that burst in 2008 and 2009.
The company's website advertised that "we succeed where others fail" and that "there is a loan for everyone, and we know where to find it." It promised that even people with "slow or no credit" would be considered for mortgages.
Federal prosecutors allege that Century III Home Equity brokered "hundreds of millions of dollars worth of loans" using inflated real estate values, or obtained mortgages for borrowers by not disclosing those borrowers' other debts.
They claim that Nassida directed employees to:
- Inflate the true value of properties being mortgaged;
- Falsify the amount of money that borrowers were paying on real estate they purchased;
- Conceal the fact that borrowers had secondary financing on properties they were purchasing; and
- Backdate documents to reflect that settlements had occurred at earlier dates.
According to Song, the fraud also involved misrepresentations to some of the borrowers to encourage them to enter into transactions. Prosecutors allege that Century III Home Equity hid the fees that it received from lenders in exchange for the borrowers’ transactions; and concealed the impact of those fees on the borrowers’ interest rates.
Prosecutors further allege that Century III Home Equity failed to disclose the true nature of the mortgages that they were selling, including the fact that in some cases, if the borrowers' mortgage payments failed to cover the interest that was accruing on the loans, the borrowers would end up owing more money on the principal of the loan, through a process known as negative amortization.
Four employees of Century III Home Equity pleaded guilty in federal court in connection with the case against the Nassidas, and testified in court against them, according to published reports.
In addition, prosecutors alleged that Nassida received kickbacks from settlement companies, but failed to disclose them to borrowers or lenders.
They also accused Nassida of submitting fake documents in connection with his own purchase of a $300,000 vacation home near the Seven Springs resort, including a settlement statement that inflated the sales price; a loan application that falsely stated his income and assets; and a fake statement from an investment company that verified that he had more than $600,000 in investments, when he actually had approximately $15,000.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brendan T. Conway and Cindy Chung prosecuted the case on behalf of the government. The federal Mortgage Fraud Task Force, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Secret Service, conducted the investigation in conjunction with the Allegheny County district attorney's office, a spokeswoman said.
Originally published August 30, 2017.