Marvette Thompson Easterling, 54, Gaffney, South Carolina; Keylon Wright, 40, Simpsonville, South Carolina; and Joshua David Armato, 37, Georgia today admitted that they knowingly defrauded a program established to help homeowners at risk of mortgage loan default and foreclosure of thousands of dollars in a scheme that defrauded the federal government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

Evidence presented in court showed that through false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, Easterling obtained funds from SC Housing, a federally funded mortgage payment assistance program that provided eligible homeowners with temporary mortgage assistance so that they could avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes.  Easterling concealed and failed to notify SC Housing of monthly rental income she received for the property as well as the non-owner-occupied status of the property in order to receive and use federal funds to which she was not eligible.

Additional evidence presented in court further showed that Wright executed a similar scheme for a property in Mauldin, South Carolina, while Armato executed a similar scheme for a property in Simpsonville, South Carolina.  Wright and Armato concealed and failed to notify SC Housing of the non-owner occupied statuses of their properties and the rental of the properties to unrelated third parties in order to receive and use federal funds to which they were not eligible.

Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett DeHart made the announcement.

U.S. District Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks ordered each defendant to a sentence of time served followed by five years of supervised release and the repayment of the stolen funds for the felony charges.

With today’s sentencing, SIGTARP and the United States Attorney’s Office have brought justice for defendants who defraud and steal from the Hardest Hit Fund, a federal program that helps unemployed homeowners stay in their home,” said Special Inspector General Christy Goldsmith Romero.  “Easterling, Wright, and Armato separately lied to get thousands of federal dollars for mortgage assistance, concealing that they did not live in the house and concealing rental income.  Now they are convicted of fraud and must repay the stolen funds.”

Stealing from the federal government, particularly from programs that help the least fortunate in America, will not be tolerated,” said Acting U.S. Attorney DeHart.  “Our office appreciates the investigative work of the Special Inspector General for TARP (SIGTARP) and will continue to work with SIGTARP to protect American tax dollars.

The cases were investigated by SIGTARP, as an independent law enforcement agency used to investigate fraud, waste, and abuse related to the TARP bailout.

Assistant United States Attorney Winston Marosek prosecuted the cases.