Fraud case ran deep

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — If you want to understand what went wrong in the housing market, the case of Ruben Rojas is an important piece of the puzzle.

Rojas, 30, a real estate agent from Vienna, Va., was sentenced to five years in prison Friday in U.S. District Court for his role as the ringleader in a massive mortgage fraud scheme that ran amok in the booming Washington-area real estate market four years ago.

When the fraud was uncovered last year, he was one of 20 people arrested. The scheme drew in family members, loan officers, other real estate agents, and straw buyers who falsified information about their finances to qualify loans. In still other cases, innocent home purchasers were pushed into mortgages they should not have received, and were left holding the bag when banks foreclosed.

The indictment against Rojas spells out some 25 properties worth $17.6 million that were purchased with fraudulent mortgages. All but two ended up in foreclosure and lenders collectively lost more than $9 million.

Prosecutor Marla Tusk said at Friday’s sentencing hearing that the government brought formal charges for only a small fraction of the fraud that Rojas and his cohorts committed. When police arrested Rojas last year, they estimated that he and others fraudulently purchased as many as 200 properties collectively worth $100 million.

Rojas, a permanent legal resident who will likely be deported to Bolivia after serving his sentence, personally profited by $2 million, Tusk said.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee imposed a five-year sentence that was even longer than what prosecutors sought.

“Homeownership is part of the American dream. What you did was destroy that dream,” Lee said.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

The Lenz composting facility borders. (Google Earth)
Firm calls rules for expanded composting near Stanwood ‘unlawful’

Among other things, Lenz Enterprises claims a condition barring odors from its composting is “unreasonable.”

Janette Burk and Timur Keskinturk are fighting to keep their coffee shop location in Alderwood Mall. Photographed in Seattle, Washington on May 23, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Alderwood mall evicts Turkish cafe that fought Starbucks ‘exclusive’

Kismet Turkish Cafe Bakery must clear out by Tuesday. The owners of the kiosk blame the global coffee chain.

Nuno Taborda
Former Rolls Royce executive to lead Everett aerospace firm

magniX, which builds electric aircraft motors, has hired Nuno Taborda as its next CEO.

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2019, file photo, people stand in the lobby for Amazon offices in New York. Amazon shareholders on Wednesday, May 25, 2022 voted down a proposal calling for an independent audit of working conditions at the e-commerce behemoth's warehouses. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Amazon shareholders nix warehouse working conditions audit

They did, however, approve compensation packages for six top executives, including CEO Andy Jassy.

Janette Burk and Timur Keskinturk are fighting to keep their coffee shop location in Alderwood Mall. Photographed in Seattle, Washington on May 23, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
A Turkish café served coffee next to Starbucks. They were told to move.

After years, Kismet Turkish Cafe Bakery’s owners say they were told to relocate in Alderwood mall due to a nearby Starbucks kiosk.

Epic Ford on the corner of 52nd Street and Evergreen Way in Everett is closed. The dealership has been in business for more than 50 years. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)
After 50 years, Everett’s Epic Ford dealership closes shop

It opened in 1971, when gas guzzling muscle cars like the Ford Mustang still ruled the road.

Dan Bates / The Herald
When Seattle Genetics founder, Clay Siegall lost his father while in college, he switched from studying for an MD to studying for a PhD., and a goal to treat cancer patients.  His efforts are paying off in lives.
Bothell biotech CEO resigns after domestic-violence allegation

Clay Siegall co-founded Seagen, which develops therapies for cancer patients. He’s accused of attacking his wife.

FILE - A sign at a Starbucks location in Havertown, Pa., is seen April 26, 2022. Starbucks says it will pay travel expenses for U.S. employees to access abortion or gender-confirmation procedures if those services aren't available within 100 miles of a worker’s home. The Seattle coffee chain says, Monday, May 16, 2022, the benefit will also be available to dependents of employees enrolled in its health care coverage. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)
Starbucks will cover travel for workers seeking abortions

Amazon and Tesla also will provide the benefit. Walmart and Facebook have stayed silent.

A barista pours steamed milk into a red paper cup while making an espresso drink at a Starbucks coffee shop in the Pike Place Market, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Seattle. It's as red as Santa's suit, a poinsettia blossom or a loud Christmas sweater. Yet Starbucks' minimalist new holiday coffee cup has set off complaints that the chain is making war on Christmas. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Interfaith group asks Starbucks to drop vegan milk surcharge

They say the practice amounts to a tax on people who have embraced plant-based lifestyles.

FILE - In this Monday, March 1, 2021 file photo, The first Alaska Airlines passenger flight on a Boeing 737-9 Max airplane takes off on a flight to San Diego from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. A Boeing pilot involved in testing the 737 Max jetliner was indicted Thursday, Oct. 14,2021 by a federal grand jury on charges of deceiving safety regulators who were evaluating the plane, which was later involved in two deadly crashes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Alaska Airlines to keep canceling flights at high level for weeks

Flight cancellations since April will continue. The chaos has been damaging for Seattle’s hometown airline.

FILE - An airplane flies past the Boeing logo on the company's headquarters in Chicago, on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2001. Boeing Co., a leading defense contractor and one of the world's two dominant manufacturers of airline planes, is expected to move its headquarters from Chicago to the Washington, D.C., area, according to two people familiar with the matter. The decision could be announced as soon as later Thursday, May 5, 2022, according to one of the people. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Boeing expected to move headquarters from Chicago to DC area

The move would put Boeing executives close to their key customer, the Pentagon, and the FAA.

This 3D rendering shows Sila's 6000-foot facility in Moses Lake, to be used to manufacture lithium-ion anode battery materials. (Business Wire)
New factory in Moses Lake will bring hundreds of new jobs

The plant will manufacture lithium-ion anode battery materials for cars and cellphones.