81 defendants charged in fraud investigation

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

The federal government tied 81 suspects to a massive fraud investigation in Mecklenburg and Union counties.

Prosecutors said they cheated everyone from a retired school teacher to banks.

The suspects lived lavish lifestyles in some of wealthiest Charlotte neighborhoods. They threw parties and take expensive trips.

Eyewitness News first reported the investigation in September. The 75-page federal indictment was just unsealed.

Prosecutors said the suspects were part of a mortgage fraud scheme that allowed the defendants to steal more than $75 million from banks and investors.

“Bribing bank officials. That’s scary. Trafficking drugs. That’s scary. That’s really scary,” said Paula Andretta, who lives near one of the homes.

Andretta said people were coming and going at odd hours, and once, a large motorboat was parked in the driveway.

“There was just mysterious, suspicious things going on over there all the time,” she said.

Prosecutors said the defendants agreed to buy houses from owners or builders at one price, then inflated the value to the banks and used the victims’ identities to take out bigger loans, pocketing the difference.

To pay for down payments, prosecutors said they targeted professional athletes, promising a 75 percent return on their investments in 90 days.

Prosecutors said they convinced an elderly retired school teacher to invest money she had saved for retirement.

Andretta told Eyewitness News a family lives at the home and things are back to normal, but she said it’s eye opening to hear what authorities said was happening on her block.

“It was always the mystery house on this street,” she said.