A Mid-Michigan man is accused of being the mastermind behind a major mortgage fraud scheme.
This case involves more than 1,200 suspects and $2.3 billion in losses nationally.
The U.S. attorney's office said the fraud lasted four years, until the summer of 2007, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation got the evidence they needed to file charges.
These schemes are despicable, said Attorney General Eric Holder. They are dangerous to our economy and will not be tolerated. This takedown is just the latest effort in what is an ongoing fight.
The Justice Department also has engaged in civil enforcement actions to recover more than $147 million in the operation.
Hundreds of FBI agents are working on task forces with other law enforcement agencies, FBI Director Robert Mueller said in prepared remarks.
FBI agents and analysts are using intelligence enhanced surveillance [and] undercover operations to identify emerging trends and identify the key players behind large-scale fraud, said Mueller.
The nationwide probe netted 500 arrests since March, including seven in Michigan.
The FBI said those accused used a combination of real and fake loans to secure funding from mortgage lenders.
When the defendants defaulted on their loans, mortgage companies were not protected.
And investigators said the Mid-Michigan ring leader used other peoples' money to fund a lavish lifestyle, with boats, sports cars and even a helicopter.
Were seeing more of this than weve ever seen before, said Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton. Its directly related to the poor economy and people are looking everywhere to rip somebody off, to gain an advantage, and to get money that they dont deserve to have. Its a big problem.
Fenton resident Ronnie Duke, 43, the alleged leader, has been charged with one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $1 million fine.
Six other people from the southeast-Michigan region were also charged in connection to the mortgage fraud scheme.
They are Anthony Peters, 72, of Belleville, Ryan Zundel, 36, also of Belleville, William Wells III, 39, of Howell, Nicole Turcheck, 31, of Gibraltar and Wilinevah Richardson, 32, of Rochester Hills.
Authorities said the group managed to get straw buyers into the scheme, which resulted in more than 500 fake mortgage loans and the purchase of 180 homes within an eight-county area.
The FBI expects to make even more arrests as its investigation continues.