Two men convicted in connection with a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme based out of Irvine and Santa Ana have been sentenced to federal prison, authorities said Wednesday.
Maher Obagi, 32, of Huntington Beach was sentenced Tuesday to six-and-a-half years in prison and ordered to pay $10 million in restitution. Co-defendant Mohamed Salah, 43, of Mission Viejo was sentenced to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay about $7 million in restitution.
The defendants, along with several others, were part of the scheme that was run through Excel Investments and other companies based out of Santa and Irvine, according to Thom Mrozek of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The scam stemmed from the housing collapse in 2008 that led to the Great Recession. With developers struggling to sell condos, the defendants helped to arrange for the purchase of the residences in California, Florida and Arizona at a discount in exchange for kickbacks, Mrozek said.
The discounted sales were made to the defendants’ friends, relatives and straw buyers, who were recruited due to their strong credit, and enticed with promises of an investment opportunity requiring no down payment and revenue from rentals, Mrozek said.
The conspiracy also included fraudulent loan applications and led mortgage lenders to kick in about $21 million in financing of the about 100 condo units, Mrozek said.
Many of the loans lapsed into default and the lenders lost more than $10 million, Mrozek said. The Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae federal lenders acquired dozens of the loans and lost at least $1.3 million, Mrozek said.
Other defendants involved in the scheme include:
— Ali Khatib, 53, of Newport Coast, who pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced July 16;
— Momoud Aref Abaji, 37, of Huntington Beach, who was convicted following a trial and is scheduled to be sentenced June 14;
— Jacqueline Burchell, 57, of Orange, who pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced July 16;
— Wajieh Tbakhi, 53, who is a fugitive, and Mohamed El Tahir, who has since died, Mrozek said.