A West Mifflin man has been sentenced to more than six years in federal prison for his role in what prosecutors have described as one of the largest mortgage fraud schemes in Western Pennsylvania.
James Nassida IV, 50, was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose in federal court in Pittsburgh, said Scott W. Brady, U.S. Attorney, in a prepared statement.
Between 2002 and 2009, Nassida was president of Century III Home Equity in Baldwin. Prosecutors described it as one of the largest mortgage brokerages in the Pittsburgh area, and said it arranged "hundreds of millions of dollars" of home loans with more than a dozen banks.
But prosecutors accused the brokerage --- which advertised that it had "a loan for everyone," including people with "slow or no credit" --- of committing fraud to obtain many of those mortgages.
The case was a "breeding ground for many of the other investigations led by the Western Pennsylvania Mortgage Fraud Task Force," said Robert Johnson, FBI special agent in charge, in a prepared statement.
Since the formation of the task force, more than 100 people have been charged in connection with more than $500 million in fraudulent loans, he said.
The worldwide economic collapse in 2007 and 2008 --- the so-called "great recession" --- was blamed at least in part on fraudulent mortgages being bought and sold on Wall Street. Johnson said the FBI takes mortgage fraud seriously because the housing market is so important to the economy.
The Century III Home Equity case was "significant" because of its size and scope, he said.
"At the time of this case, James Nassida was living a fancy lifestyle, in a million dollar home, taking money from victims who put their trust in him," Johnson said.
Federal prosecutors charged that Nassida directed his 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.
Prosecutors also accused Nassida of taking kickbacks from mortgage settlement companies.
Nassida also was accused of submitting fraudulent documents in connection with his own purchase of a $300,000 vacation home near the Seven Springs resort.
Nassida pleaded guilty to the fraud in August 2017. He and his sister, Janna Nassida, who also worked for Century III Home Equity, were originally convicted in connection with this investigation in 2016.
They were granted a new trial after Ambrose concluded that one of their attorneys fell asleep numerous times during the trial.
Nassida's sister committed suicide in November 2016 before the second trial could begin.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brendan T. Conway and Cindy Chung prosecuted the case on behalf of the government.
Originally published January 10, 2018.