Four indicted in mortgage fraud

LAWRENCEVILLE - The first four people to be prosecuted under Georgia's new Residential Mortgage Fraud Act were indicted this week by a Gwinnett County grand jury.

Jason Edward Brenner, 32, James Reuben Price, 48, Charlie Reed Smith Jr., 36 ,and Tara Shemail Webb, 33, each face three counts of residential mortgage fraud.

The four alleged co-conspirators are accused of inflating a home appraisal to steal from a bank. The suspects were caught trying to secure a loan for $205,000 even though the house they planned to buy on Atwood Street in Atlanta was valued at $140,000, according to police.

The suspects, including a buyer, broker, real estate agent and an investor, allegedly inflated the price by placing $60,000 worth of fake liens on the house to funnel money into a "shell" mechanic's business, Attorney General Thurbert Baker said during a press conference in June.

Georgia's new Residential Mortgage Fraud Act, the first legislation dealing with mortgage fraud in the country, was signed into law this year. Anyone convicted of engaging in residential mortgage fraud with one property faces one to 10 years in prison and up to a $1,000 fine. Offenders convicted of mortgage flipping two or more properties could receive a sentence from three to 20 years in prison and up to a $100,000 fine for each property.

Baker has called the law a "landmark piece of legislation" that is especially relevant to Georgians. Georgia had more mortgage fraud than any other state between 2000 and 2003, and it still ranks among the top states for the crime.

In other indictments:

•Four alleged members of the 18th Street gang were indicted this week on charges of violating the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act, armed robbery, aggravated assault on a peace officer and aggravated assault.

Francisco Javier Hernandez, Ignacio Torres, Jorge Ernesto Chicas-Posada and Diego Armando Perez allegedly held up the Dynasty Jewelry & Loan on Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Norcross on June 24. After stealing guns and jewelry, the group fled the scene in a stolen 1995 Honda Accord, authorities said.

One of the men reportedly hung out a window and fired gunshots at a Gwinnett County police officer who was attempting to pursue them in a patrol car. Two bullets struck the car, but the officer was not injured.

•A 25-year-old Atlanta man was indicted in connection with a fatal motor vehicle accident on New Year's Day. Boban Kvrgic is charged with vehicular homicide, driving with a suspended license and operating a vehicle with suspended registration.

Kvrgic was allegedly driving his 1995 BMW west on Brooks Road when he ran a stop sign and collided with a 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe. The front seat passenger of the BMW, 26-year-old Latoya Peart of Marietta, died from injuries.