Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces that Michael Rubino (59, Clearwater) today pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with one count of equity skimming and one count of bankruptcy fraud. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison for each count. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement, Rubino devised a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders holding recorded mortgage notes, as well as the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) and the Federal Housing Agency (“FHA”), which guaranteed the mortgage notes. In furtherance of his scheme, Rubino searched the Pinellas County Clerk of Court records to find properties in various stages of foreclosure. He then contacted distressed homeowners who had already defaulted on their mortgages and vacated their properties.
Rubino offered to take control of, manage, and rent the properties to new tenants. Rubino told the homeowners that he would use the rental income he obtained to pay the mortgages and, in some instances, pay the homeowner a portion of the rent he collected. At no time did Rubino hold any legal or equitable interest in these properties, or have authorization from the mortgage lenders, Fannie Mae, or FHA, to rent out the properties. Further, he failed to remit any of the collected rent monies to FHA, as required by law.
Additionally, in order to prevent Fannie Mae and the mortgage lenders from lawfully foreclosing on properties secured by mortgage notes, Rubino engaged in a bankruptcy fraud scheme whereby he filed fraudulent bankruptcy petitions in the names of the distressed homeowners, without their knowledge or consent, just prior to the scheduled foreclosure sale. These fraudulent bankruptcies invoked the automatic stay provision of the bankruptcy code, preventing the mortgage note holders from conducting the foreclosure sale. The fraudulent bankruptcy petitions filed by Rubino allowed him to continue to collect rent monies to which he was not entitled.
The press release is available at justice.gov.