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Mortgage fraud gets former Mariner’s Bank CEO from Englewood Cliffs 1 year in federal prison

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

ANOTHER CVP SCOOP: A former mortgage broker from Englewood Cliffs who was once the CEO of Mariner’s Bank was sentenced today to a year in federal prison for conspiring to commit bank fraud in order to secure a $1.48 million residential real estate loan for a local car dealer.

CLIFFVIEW PILOT first reported the arrest by FBI agents of James Cockinos, 58, the owner/president of Federated Mortgage Company of America in Edgewater, who inn April today pleaded guilty to a charge that exposed him to several years in federal prison and up to $1 million in fines.

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson sentenced Cockinos to two years of supervised release, fined him $5,000 and ordered him to pay $513,882 in restitution.

Cockinos, who abruptly resigned as Mariner’s CEO in late 2009, admitted that he temporarily slipped $350,000 into the bank account of the car dealer’s wife to help her husband secure a $1.5 million federal loan to buy property in Englewood Cliffs.

The alleged fraud began when the wife of a man who owns car dealerships in Englewood and Yonkers applied for the loan to buy property in Englewood Cliffs.

She signed the application without reviewing hers or her husband’s income or assets – which the FBI said Cockinos artificially pumped up.

Cockinos claimed he obtained the information directly from the woman – including the purpose for the property – “when, in fact, no such interview took place,” a federal complaint on file in U.S. District Court says.

Although the couple already had a primary residence, Cockinos also doctored the application to indicate that she wanted the $1.9 million Englewood Cliffs property for her own home, it says.

In addition, it says, he made it appear that the woman had been working for her husband at the dealership, earning $37,500 a month, when she was actually a one-percent partner for tax purposes. That brought her an annual distribution of $10,000.

The application also claimed $400,000 in assets in a joint account with her husband at Mariner’s Bank, but that’s only because Cockinos “caused $350,000 to be temporarily deposited,” the complaint says.

To do this, it says, he issued a check on May 7, 2007 from an account in his name at the bank to the car dealer.

The dealer then endorsed and deposited the check at Mariner’s Edgewater branch on May 10.

The very next day, federal authorities said, Cockinos directed a bank employee to sign a bogus request for verification of deposit form indicating that the car dealer’s wife had a $351,394 balance in the joint account and an average balance of $350,000 a month.

The employee “had not verified the balance for the prior two months,” the FBI complaint says, “and there was significantly less funds in the account over the prior two months.”

A month later, Washington Mutual informed the wife of its commitment to provide the loan.

The letter said that commitment “could be rescinded with no further obligation to make the loan if it discovered any misrepresentation or omission of any material fact in connection with the [a]pplication,” the complaint notes.

With a week, $1.48 million was wired to her attorney at a Wachovia branch in Oradell and a promissory note sent, along with other documents, for the mortgage.

The seller then paid Cockinos a $12,950 broker’s fee, the FBI said.

A little over two years ago, the car dealer’s wife defaulted on the loan, according to the complaint.

JPMorgan Chase, which had acquired Washington Mutual in 2008, began foreclosure proceedings and got rid of the property in a short sale last March, records show.

“The loss amount to JPMorgan Chase totaled over $500,000,” the federal complaint says.

Mariner’s was affected, as well.

The 12-year-old, state-charted commercial bank has been operating under oversight from the FDIC, the state Department of Banking and Insurance and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York after posting millions of dollars in real-estate-related losses in recent years.

Fishman credited special agents of the FBI with the investigation leading to the case, which is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Zahid N. Quraishi of Fishman’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.


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