DETROIT (AP) – Federal authorities have charged 20 people with fraud and related counts, disrupting what they say were five separate mortgage fraud organizations in the Detroit area.

The groups – operating independently – were responsible for bilking financial institutions out of $10 million, John Gillies, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI in Detroit, said at a news conference yesterday.

In some of the cases, the suspects, in cooperation with loan officers, set up phony buyers for dilapidated properties in Detroit, according to authorities, who also said the suspects inflated the values of the properties with bogus appraisals and used fraudulent credit information to obtain loans and then split the proceeds.

“Obviously, this required a good deal of coordination – and conspiratorial acts by the people indicted by the grand jury,” U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy said.

Nineteen of the suspects are Michigan residents. One is from Woodland Hills, Calif. Among the charges they face are mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy.

Six of the suspects were indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 6, and authorities said they were responsible for stealing $2.7 million. Fourteen others charged in criminal complaints are responsible for the rest, authorities said.

Murphy said 17 of the 20 are in custody, and authorities are looking for the remaining three people.

“This case is not over, and the investigation is continuing,” Murphy said.

About 125 officers from the FBI, the Michigan State Police and the Macomb County sheriff’s department were involved in the operation, said Daniel Roberts, special agent in charge of the FBI in Detroit.

Authorities searched seven homes and businesses yesterday looking for additional evidence, Roberts said. He would not disclose which businesses were searched.

In the case examined by the grand jury, FBI agents were tipped to the scheme by lenders, who routinely file reports of suspicious activity, Roberts said.

When agents noticed a pattern, they called in agents from other areas of the country to infiltrate the operation, at times posing as phony homebuyers, he said.

The indictment alleges that Myron L. Hooker Jr., 39, of Southfield and Peter Garland, 36, of Southfield, recruited phony home buyers as well as loan officers from several companies to take part in the fraud.

Hooker and Garland face charges of wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy to commit those offenses.

Many of the loans went into default after a few payments were made, leaving the companies with properties worth far less than the loan amounts, the indictment said.

The scheme involved five properties in Detroit and two in suburban West Bloomfield Township, the indictment said.

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