New Mortgage Fraud Prosecutions Unit Conducts Successful Crackdown of Cook County Mortgage Fraud
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced the indictment of four individuals on multiple felony financial charges as a result of an ongoing investigation and crackdown on mortgage fraud led by the new Mortgage Fraud Unit of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Two businessmen, along with their two unnamed co-conspirators, were convicted following a joint city, county, and federal investigations conducted by the new Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office – Mortgage Fraud Unit. The success of the elimination of mortgage fraud within the County is a result of the collaborative efforts of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with the Chicago Police Department Financial Crimes Unit, and the Inspector General’s Office of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Jimmy Pililimis, 36, is the operator of a Chicago-based kitchen and bath business from Des Plaines. He was named in the indictment made on May 26, 2010, and was charged Organizing a Continuing Financial Crimes Enterprise (Class X felony), Identity Theft (Class X felony), Financial Institution Fraud, Loan Fraud, and multiple counts of theft, and may serve for six to 30 years in prison.
With Pililimis is the other defendant, Anthony Palermo, 41, the operator of a Chicago-based mortgage company from Elmwood Park. He was named along with two unidentified co-conspirators who were also charged with multiple felony financial charges. Palermo faces charges of Attempted Identity Theft, Financial Institution Fraud, Loan Fraud, and multiple counts of theft.
There were three reported schemes in which the defendants were found in a coalition. The first one involves a $28,000 worth of automobile loans from a credit union, wherein Pililimis was found to have allegedly provided one of his co-defendant’s fake income tax returns, fraudulent pay stubs, and phony W-2 forms to acquire said amount.
In the second scheme, the defendants were involved in “straw purchasing” of $360,000 worth of loan for a mortgage on a house in Chicago’s Englewood community through fraudulent employment documents, phony W-2 forms, and fake bank statements that were, again, provided by Pililimis. Following this fraudulent scheme, numerous arrests involving the sale of property and foreclosure proceedings have been made. Other charges related to gambling, weapon offenses, and housing violations were also placed.
For the third scheme, Pililimis and his co-defendants were planning to defraud another lending institution and taking out more than $350,000 loan; however, investigators and prosecutors were quick in addressing the matter and conducted a proactive investigation into the defendant’s mortgage fraud scheme. Undercover agents posed as potential straw purchasers and employed a newly court-approved wiretapping system, which marks the first time Cook County prosecutors were able to utilize electronic surveillance to target mortgage fraud in a string operation.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez proudly asserts that the new approach will continue. “Traditionally we have prosecuted mortgage fraud reactively after the crime had occurred when the victims had already lost their money and the properties were headed into foreclosure. We are now going to target this crime proactively. Instead of merely chasing a paper trail, we intend to chase the defendants themselves and work to prevent the fraud before it occurs,” State’s Attorney Alvarez said.
Special Agent In-Charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Inspector General’s Office Barry McLaughlin declares that the agency will remain committed to working in collaboration with the local police and prosecutors to combat mortgage fraud.
“We have all seen how mortgage fraud has destroyed areas throughout Cook County, and we know that these crimes are constantly evolving. The Office of Inspector General stands ready with the Cook County State’s Attorney and the Chicago Police Department to continue to develop new and creative approaches to eradicate this cancer on our communities,” said Special Agent McLaughlin.
Chicago’s Financial Crimes Unit Commanding Officer Sergeant John Lucki also expressed his understanding of the crime and noted that the announced arrests show the pervasive nature of mortgage fraud cases, and how severely it extends to other communities.
“Here we have revealed a group of economic criminals operating in Cook County’s northern suburbs who are exploiting one of Chicago’s most devastated housing markets in the Englewood community, depleting legitimate economic resources, community and business efforts by stealing away mortgage monies for their own self-serving greed,” Sergeant Lucki said.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez declared that the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office – Mortgage Fraud Investigations and Prosecutions Unit would conduct proactive mortgage fraud investigations and also work to convict corrupt and fraudulent appraisers and brokers. The Unit was constructed with the aid of the $2.3 million federal grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and had a unique community-based approach with the help of a collaborative partnership with Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office – Community Justice Centers on the city’s north and south sides.
“Rampant mortgage fraud is destroying the quality of life in so many of our communities, and it is having a direct impact on neighborhood crime when abandoned homes become havens for drug dealing, prostitution or other violent crime,” State’s Attorney Alvarez said.
Advocating for enhanced cooperation and partnership with business groups, community-based organizations, and other entities directly affected by mortgage fraud, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez declares more appropriate and strengthened efforts by the Office.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office offers regularly updated mortgage fraud information. The Office also provided a special email tip line for concerned citizens who are to present information on suspected mortgage fraud schemes, which may be sent to [email protected].
Updated: September 2, 2020