Houston contractor on the run after pleading guilty in $16 million loan fraud scheme

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HOUSTON – A 53-year-old Houston-area contractor has been sentenced in absentia for his role in a $16 million loan fraud scheme, according to an announcement MOnday from the Department of Justice.

Oscar Cantalicio Ortiz, who had resided in Kingwood prior to becoming a fugitive in this case, pleaded guilty June 30, 2016 to conspiring to commit bank, mail and wire fraud. He was set for set for sentencing April 24 but failed to appear for that hearing.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt sentenced Ortiz in absentia to a 262-month-term of federal imprisonment. He was further ordered to pay $5,462,800 in restitution. At the hearing Monday, the court heard testimony that Ortiz was aware of the previous hearing and that he had cut off his ankle monitor and left it on the side of the road.

Ortiz is considered a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest.

His codefendant — 57-year-old Houston realtor Seung Min “Suzy” Santillan — pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and making false statements on a loan application in September 2016. She was previously sentenced to 168 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $5,299,500 in restitution.

Ortiz and Santillan operated a mortgage fraud scheme in which they recruited straw borrowers to purchase residential properties in the Houston area. Loans were obtained from lending institutions to purchase these properties in the names and using the credit of the straw borrowers. The lenders were provided materially false information to induce them to fund these residential loans, including fraudulent appraisal reports. The loans were funded and ultimately fell into default when all the mortgage payments were not made as promised.

Ortiz and Santillan utilized several business entities during the execution of the scheme to defraud including Uptown Builders LLC, Americorp Builders LLC, Luxury Quality Homes LLC and Santi Investments. In recruiting straw borrowers during the scheme, the borrowers were told the residential property would be in their name for a short period while Ortiz made modifications to the property prior to reselling the house. Ortiz and Santillan promised the straw borrowers that they would handle all the costs associated with purchasing and holding these properties.

Once the loans to purchase the residence funded, one or more of the business entities Ortiz utilized would receive a large portion of the loan proceeds. This occurred even when the same property was purchased for the second time in the name of a new straw borrower. The defendants were able to take a large portion of the loan proceeds since the value of the residence was inflated with fraudulent appraisal reports.

Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI at 713-693-5000.