Crime - Sacto 911

Placer County women guilty in multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme

Two Placer County women have been convicted for their roles in a mortgage fraud scheme that cost financial institutions more than $16 million.

After a 16-day trial, a federal jury in Sacramento on Friday found Vera Kuzmenko, 45, of Loomis, and Rachel Siders, 40, of Roseville guilty of multiple counts of mail and wire fraud associated with the scheme, according to a U.S. attorney’s office news release. Kuzmenko also was found guilty of witness tampering and money laundering.

According to evidence presented during the trial, from late 2006 to early 2008 Kuzmenko and Siders engaged in a mortgage fraud scheme involving more than 30 properties in the Sacramento area. The defendants were responsible for securing more than $30 million in residential mortgage loans on more than 30 homes purchased through straw buyers. Records introduced during the trial showed Kuzmenko received millions of dollars and Siders received hundreds of thousands of dollars, authorities said.

Kuzmenko, who had been a licensed real estate agent during part of the scheme, created fraudulent loan applications on behalf of the straw buyers. The loan applications contained materially false information as to the straw buyers’ income, employment, assets and intent to occupy the residences. The loan paperwork also hid from lenders millions of dollars of payments that went to the defendants, authorities said. Kuzmenko also served as a straw buyer herself.

As for the witness-tampering count, authorities said evidence showed that after Kuzmenko learned the FBI was investigating her, she told various witnesses to lie to the FBI and blame a dead woman for the fraud.

“Vera Kuzmenko was a major figure in a network of fraudsters responsible for a wave of mortgage fraud that hit the Sacramento area,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said in a written statement.

Siders ran the Rocklin office of the escrow company used in the majority of the transactions. She helped funnel millions of dollars to the defendants, which was not disclosed to the lenders.

Kuzmenko and Siders are to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez on March 15.

On Oct. 20, Judge Mendez sentenced co-defendants Peter Kuzmenko, 37, of West Sacramento, to 19 years in prison; Aaron New, 41, of Sacramento, to 11 years and three months in prison; Nadia Kuzmenko, 36, formerly of Loomis, to eight years in prison; and Edward Shevtsov, 51, of North Highlands, to eight years in prison. They were found guilty in February, after a 21-day trial, of multiple counts of mail and wire fraud associated with the mortgage fraud scheme. In addition, Peter Kuzmenko, Shevtsov and New were found guilty of money laundering associated with the scheme, and Nadia Kuzmenko was found guilty of witness tampering.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy