ROCKFORD (AP) – A former housing repair contractor with a Florida property management company has been sentenced to 2 years in federal prison for his role in defrauding a Department of Veterans Affairs mortgage program.
Ronald Hurst also was ordered to repay the VA nearly $148,000, along with former colleague Bryant Carbonell, who was sentenced to 6 months of home confinement, the Justice Department said. Each man already had pleaded guilty to two wire fraud counts.
An indictment last year had alleged that Hurst, Carbonell and Ryan Piana plotted to commit bribery and wire fraud involving the VA from at least January 2006 through September 2007 as part of their work with Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC of West Palm Beach, Fla. Piana was an Ocwen residential sales manager.
Prosecutors said Ocwen managed foreclosed properties under contract with the VA, which guaranteed qualifying residential mortgages for veterans. If a veteran defaulted, Ocwen made necessary repairs to the property and resold it.
But the federal government said Hurst and Carbonell paid Piana to steer housing repair work to companies affiliated with Hurst and Carbonell, with Piana recruiting other Ocwen workers into the scheme.
“By paying kickbacks in exchange for contracts to companies they secretly owned or with which they were affiliated, the conspirators created the illusion of competition while illegally steering contracts to themselves,” Bill Baer, the assistant attorney general who heads the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said in a statement.
Piana pleaded guilty in July to two wire fraud counts and was sentenced in September to 2 years in prison and $147,285 in restitution to the VA.
Messages seeking comment were left Tuesday with Chicago attorneys for Hurst and Carbonell. Piana’s attorney, Cynthia Hawkins of Orlando, Fla., declined to comment.