Las Vegas Sun

August 1, 2014

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Federal grand jury brings new conspiracy, fraud charges against realtors

A federal grand jury today returned a superseding indictment against a Las Vegas real estate broker and her husband who were charged in March with defrauding federally-insured financial institutions of millions of dollars.

The new charges allege that 31-year-old Eve Mazzarella and her husband, 45-year-old Steve Grimm, schemed to inflate housing values, using straw purchasers and limited liability companies, said Gregory A. Brower, U.S. Attorney for the Nevada district.

New charges include conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, 13 counts of bank fraud and criminal forfeiture. Mazzarrella is also charged with money laundering.

Four additional defendants, 28-year-old Melissa R. Beecroft, 46-year-old Christina R. Thompson, 33-year-old Amy R. Ortiz and 52-year-old Jyothi Panikkar, also known as Joe Panikkar, all loan officers and mortgage brokers in Las Vegas, are included in the superseding indictment.

They are charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, various bank fraud counts and criminal forfeiture. Ortiz is also charged with assisting with providing fraudulent and false forms to the IRS.

Defendants Beecroft, Thompson, Ortiz and Panikkar were arrested in Las Vegas on Wednesday and are expected to make their initial court appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy A. Leen at 3 p.m.

Grimm and Mazarrella will be arraigned on new charges at 8:30 a.m. June 27.

Maximum penalties for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud and for each bank fraud charge are 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The maximum penalties for conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering are 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for aiding and assisting with fraud and false statements is three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The investigation is ongoing by the FBI and the IRS Criminal Investigation team with assistance from state and local law enforcement authorities, Brower said.

Persons who have information about potential mortgage fraud may contact the Southern Nevada Mortgage Fraud Hotline at 584-5555.

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