You know those news stories about scams that involve lots of money, and always seem to catch your eye? Well today, we have several million dollar scams to share with you. Not only are these scams intriguing, they’re also local! Let’s dive right in. There’s nothing like a good story!
On the run
Our story starts back in 2003 when Ronnie Duke, the so-called kingpin, and his co-conspirators began their scams. Over the next four years, they secured money on over 450 Detroit home loans. They then used the money to buy boats, cars, luxury vacations, even a nightclub. Ronnie Duke was on the run for nearly 7 months before investigators found and arrested him.
Patch.com goes on to say that, “as part of the scam, Duke created phony title companies, used straw buyers and hired former strippers to process the loans on houses valued at between $350,000 and $600,000. Payments stopped after a few months and 80 percent of the loans reportedly ended in foreclosure.”
The father and son duo
On Tuesday, September 24, 2013, a federal judge convicted Brighton man, John Bravata, to 20 years in prison. He swindled investors out of nearly $50 million dollars. With the help of his 25-year-old son, Antonio Bravata, John was able to deceive nearly 500 clients. Most of those entrusted their life savings to the pair.
The duo also targeted retirees through free lunch seminars. There, they solicited investments to the senior Bravata’s company, BBC Equities. While falsely telling folks how secure their investments were, Bravata would also tell them they would receive no pay unless the said business was profitable.
As a result, following a three-week-long trial, “John Bravata was found guilty of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and 15 counts of wire fraud.” The court also convicted his son of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.
The scheming attorney
Stephen Barry Ruza, a 52-year-old from Orchard Lake Michigan, went to Oakland County Jail for 12 months. This was the result of one felony count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise in 2015. Ruza pled guilty to charges related to defrauding his victims with a false mortgage assistance scheme. Mortgage Fraud Blog tells us that, “at the time of sentencing, Ruza was ordered to pay $445,895.16 in restitution to the first 297 of his victims.”
After his release from jail in 2015, Ruza falsely certified a driver’s license for himself. Subsequently, in 2017, the judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison. At the end of the first case, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette summed it up in a press release. “Today’s sentencing brings to a close a long and winding road of criminal activity by Mr. Ruza. I hope he has learned there are consequences for actions and that this serves as an example for others that breaking the law not once, but twice, for personal financial gains has consequences.”
Asima Khan, a Roseville, Michigan woman received sentencing on October 26, 2017, for one felony count of larceny. Khan had a prominent role in running a scam related to mortgage modification. Subsequently, she received only 12 days in jail but had to pay upwards of $60,000 to her victims in restitution.
In 2015, after several of her former clients complained, the Department of Attorney General’s Corporate Oversight Division decided it was time to start investigating. Khan’s company, Financial Independent Services provided mortgage modifications and debt consolidations. Opposite to what they promised, the company illegally charged clients in advance for the services, and then never delivered the services they paid for.
Later, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette again commented on the sad state of where we’re seeing people end up when all they want is money. “We see this time and time again, good people who have fallen on difficult times are taken advantage of by an individual who sees nothing but dollar signs. I am pleased to see this case resolved, but I will continue to seek justice and restitution for victims of this type of crime.”
The moral of the stories
In conclusion, after reading these stories, we’re met with a dumbfounding reality: people who want money badly enough will almost always find a way. Even if it means hurting other people. Thankfully, in all these specific cases, the criminals were caught and brought to justice. Lastly, to stay safe, and make sure your money stays safe too, check out our article on 5 Questions To Ask Before You Sign Anything.