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Two from bay area face fraud charges

One of the men arrested is linked to hundreds of thousands of dollars of fraudulent mortgage loans made in the Tampa Heights area.

By JEFF TESTERMAN
Published September 18, 2004

TAMPA - As part of a nationwide federal crackdown on mortgage fraud, the U.S. government on Friday charged Tampa resident Eric Tamargo with using a false identity and a phony Social Security number to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent loans.

Tamargo, 32, a former employee of federal fugitive Matthew B. Cox, was accused of using the alias of James Lee Redd and the Social Security number belonging to a child to sign for fraudulent mortgage loans in the Tampa Heights area, according to the FBI.

Cox, one of the former partners in the Urban Equity investment company in Tampa, masterminded a scheme to use false identities to obtain millions in mortgage loans, according to federal bankruptcy documents.

The arrest of Tamargo is the first in Tampa involving Cox and his associates, who purchased more than 90 properties in the Tampa Heights and Ybor City area and obtained millions in questionable mortgage loans, court records show.

Now, the FBI says Tamargo was part of that scheme. Photographs of Tamargo appeared on two drivers' licenses under the fictitious name James Lee Redd that were tendered at real estate closings at a Tampa title company for some of those loans.

The St. Petersburg Times detailed the fraudulent transactions under the name James Redd in an article in January. Records at the Hillsborough County Courthouse show the name Redd was affixed to six deeds and used to sign for loans totaling $894,000. All ultimately went into foreclosure when lenders were unable to locate any borrower named Redd.

Cox, 35, a one-time University of South Florida art student, disappeared from his home in a renovated Mediterranean-style Tampa Heights apartment building in early December, several days after a Times story detailed his involvement in a series of questionable real estate deals that relied on forged documentation.

Cox surfaced in Atlanta with a female accomplice in mid December and resumed using stolen identities and false documents to obtain some $800,000 in real estate loans, a new Honda auto and other purchases, then vanished again in July, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Secret Service.

Also arrested by the FBI Friday was Sean P. Teelucksingh, 29, of 17940 Gulf Blvd. in Redington Shores. Teelucksingh was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. He is accused of purchasing a string of properties in the Tampa Bay area using other persons' identities. Some identities were paid for while others were used without individuals' knowledge, according to the FBI.

An FBI spokesman was unavailable Friday night. It is not clear from the agency's news release whether the cases against Teelucksingh and Tamargo are related.

Friday's local arrests are part of a nationwide federal crackdown under an initiative called Operation Continued Action. The initiative is targeting groups engaged in financial institution fraud. There have been 205 arrests nationwide involving mortgage fraud, identity theft and check fraud, according to an FBI release.

Tamargo has previous arrests for drug offenses. He was taken into custody at his home at 2710 W Douglas St. in Tampa Friday, and charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and Social Security fraud, according to the FBI.

In an interview with the Times at his home in January, Tamargo expressed surprise at his photographs - one of which is a jail booking photo - appearing on the James Lee Redd drivers licenses presented at mortgage closings. Tamargo acknowledged doing yard clearing work for Cox for a period and enlisting Cox to "help fix my credit" in order to buy a home. But he denied being involved in any fraudulent mortgage activity.

Jeff Testerman can be reached at 813 226-3422 or testerman@sptimes.com

[Last modified September 18, 2004, 01:24:28]


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