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Three Charged In Land Scheme Targeting Haitians

CaribWorldNews, MIAMI, FL, Tues. Sept. 1, 2009: Three men were yesterday indicted in a land scheme that allegedly defrauded more than 1,000 mostly Haitians out of some $10.6 million.

Daniel Stephen, 42, of Miami Shores; Clotilde Jean, 43, of Miramar; and Patricia DePons, 53, of Miami Shores, were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud for their participation in a scheme to sell vacant land, according to the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

The case involved the sale of property in North Florida and Georgia by First Loan Solution, a company owned and operated by Stephen and his partner, Jean.

According to the indictment, Stephen, Jean and other First Loan Solution employees sold land that they did not own to members of the Haitian community. The indictment alleges that Stephen, Jean and other First Loan Solution employees made material misrepresentations to induce the buyers to purchase the vacant land.  For example, Stephen, Jean and their employees allegedly represented to potential buyers that First Loan Solution and Stephen actually owned the land that was being sold to them. 

 In fact, however, First Solution and Stephen allegedly did not own the land.  Stephen also allegedly represented that First Loan Solution would maintain the buyers` deposit money in escrow prior to closing on the transactions.  In fact, however, Stephen purportedly used that money for business and personal expenses. 

Stephen and Jean also apparently further represented that the buyers were purchasing individual parcels of land on which the buyers could build.  In fact, however, the buyers were purchasing land collectively with other buyers through a limited liability company, and could not build individually on the property.

Further, according to the indictment, Stephen hired a title company to serve as closing agent.  DePons was allegedly responsible for running the day-to-day affairs of the title company.   He reportedly conducted the closings on the sales, and collected from the buyers, the balance due on the sale and the title company`s closing fees. 

At the closings, DePons apparently issued fraudulent warranty deeds and closing statements to the buyers in an effort to make the closings appear legitimate.  Ultimately, the buyers never received title to the land nor, in most cases, refunds of the monies paid to Stephen, Jean and DePons for the land.

If convicted, the defendants face a possible maximum statutory sentence of 20 years` imprisonment on each count.