Accused Charlotte banker worked as fraud specialist
'Ironic' job for former Charlotte banker, one of 35 people charged in mortgage scam.
By Stella M. Hopkins
Posted: Thursday, Jul. 01, 2010
A former Bank of America branch manager in Charlotte, charged last month with taking bribes, recently worked for Wachovia as a fraud specialist - the latest twist in an elaborate mortgage fraud case.
The revelation about Vic Henson came in federal court Wednesday. Following her case, the prosecutor and a defense attorney sparred over whether to allow another defendant in the case, who is a flight attendant, to fly internationally for work.
Prosecutors don't want Sarena Mobley to leave the country because she, like Henson, potentially faces a long prison term on several charges. Mobley, who is also an actress, received $200,000 as a kickback on the fraudulent $1.5 million sale of one Waxhaw house, court documents allege.
Mobley and Henson are among 35 defendants in a complex mortgage fraud case involving pricey homes in Mecklenburg and Union counties. So far, 25 have agreed to plead guilty, the first in November 2008. On Wednesday, Mobley and Henson were in court to hear the charges against them and have conditions of their release set.
Henson, 41, was indicted last month on conspiracy, fraud, bribery and other charges. In 2007, while managing a Bank of America branch in southwest Charlotte, she falsely verified that a borrower had nearly $76,000 in an account, court documents allege. In addition, the documents say, she allegedly received two bribes totaling $38,000.
In court, Henson said she worked at Wachovia as a fraud specialist, making $14 an hour, until about a week ago. Conditions of her release included barring her from working in banking.
"It is ironic ... that Ms. Henson was appointed a fraud specialist at Wachovia," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt Meyers told a federal judge.
It's unclear whether Henson went to work for Wachovia before or after the federal investigation began. Wachovia declined to say how long Henson worked for the bank but confirmed she is no longer an employee and had been a temporary contract worker.
Henson answered the judge's questions in a quiet voice and sat through most of the hearing with her hand to her mouth. Some of the charges she faces carry sentences of as much as 30 years each and fines of $1 million.
Participants in the fraud scheme agreed to buy homes at one price from builders, arranged deals at a higher price and then lied to get mortgages at the higher level, according to court documents. Prices were generally inflated by $200,000 to $500,000. At closing, the difference between the two prices was shared by fraud participants.
The deals occurred mainly during 2006 and 2007.
Mobley, 44, is described in court documents as a buyer and recruiter for the fraud scheme. She faces several charges of conspiracy and fraud. She is a Johnson C. Smith University graduate who has been a model, actress and a pharmaceutical sales rep, according to the online business networking site LinkedIn.
Mobley lives in the Los Angeles area and has been an American Airlines flight attendant for 15 years. She said her job requires her to be available to work flights to Canada and Mexico, in addition to U.S. locations.
"If I cannot fly there, I will not have a job," she told the judge.
Prosecutor Meyers argued that Mobley should be required to stay in the country. He noted a defendant in an unrelated mortgage fraud case managed to avoid prosecution for years by fleeing to Mexico and later to Canada.
The judge suspended Mobley's hearing while the two sides worked out an agreement, which court officials later said required Mobley to surrender her passport and travel for work only within the continental United States.