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Actor, Accountant Admit To $3.8M Mortgage Fraud Scheme

LOS ANGELES ( — Authorities say an actor and an accountant have agreed to plead guilty to federal mortgage fraud charges that led to $3.8 million in losses.

Tommy Lister, 54, was charged Friday with one count of conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud, federal officials said. Also charged was Arcelia Chavez, 48, of Northridge, a self-employed certified tax preparer.

Lister, who had a small part in the "The Dark Knight" and is perhaps best known for his role as the bicycle-riding bully Deebo in the film "Friday," admitted to conspiring with Chavez and several other people to fraudulently acquire title to four residential properties he could not afford. Lister, who lives in Chatsworth, is also known as "Tiny" and "Zeus."

According to court documents, the scheme included former mortgage loan officer Sami Sager Sweiss, Long Beach real estate agent Jason Patterson, a former Washington Mutual Bank branch manager identified only as J.R., and Wanda Tenney, a former escrow officer based in the San Fernando Valley.

Authorities say Lister submitted mortgage applications that included inflated income and asset amounts, fabricated bank statements and falsified other documents to substantiate the fraudulent statements in the loan applications. Court documents also say Lister falsified escrow records to deceive lenders into believing Lister had made the required down payments.

Based on the fraudulent documents, lenders issued mortgages totaling $5.7 million, on which Lister subsequently defaulted, officials said. The lenders lost about $2.6 million on those loans.

Lister also took out $1.1 million in cash from fraudulent home equity lines of credit on the four properties and did not pay back any of the principal, according to court documents.

As part of his plea agreement, Lister admitted that Chavez helped him obtain one of the fraudulent mortgages and home equity loans by preparing a false CPA letter and fabricating W-2s and a pay stub. Chavez, in her plea agreement, admitted to the document fabrication.

Sweiss pleaded guilty to conspiracy on July 30 and will be sentenced on March 18, 2013.

Lister and Chavez are scheduled to appear in federal court in September.

The charge of conspiracy carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.


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