Nelson Miller, Freedom Financial Colleagues Indicted

Nelson Miller, owner of defunct Freedom Financial Mortgage Co. in Little Rock, and three of his former employees were indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury of 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins announced.

The indictments come more than two years after FBI agents raided Freedom Financial's main office in March 2002.

Miller's co-defendants are Bertram Case "Casey" Miller, Michael Dorsey and Katrina Bowen Soukkaseum.

They are each charged with 16 counts: 15 counts of wire fraud of a financial institution and one count of conspiracy to make false statements to a financial institution.

"The indictment alleges that the defendants caused mortgage loan application documents to be sent to lending institutions containing false information,"

a news release from Cummins' office said. "The false information concerned appraisals, title status, creditworthiness of buyers and hidden fees."

The object of the alleged conspiracy and wire fraud, according to the statement, was to enduce lenders to make loans they wouldn't have made, or to make larger loans than they would have made had they had complete and factual information.

Lenders listed as victims in the indictment include First Union National Bank of North Carolina; defunct Alliance Funding of Texas; New Century Mortgage of California; Saxon Mortgage of Virginia; Provident Bank of Ohio; a Union Planters Bank office in Mississippi; and GMFS of Louisiana.

Nelson Miller also owned Absolute Abstract and Title Co. in Little Rock and controlled a Louisiana company called Jefferson Doc Prep, according to the indictment. "The purpose of this company was to charge Freedom Financial borrowers for document preparation services," the indictment said.

"Miller failed to disclose his involvement in either of these companies to lenders, enhancing his ability to misrepresent or conceal title issues and increased closing fees," the news release said.

Between January 2000 and the end of March 2002, the indictment said, Freedom Financial originated at least 84 loans with a total value of more than $3.5 million that contained inflated fees and materially false information.

Dorsey was described as comptroller of Freedom Financial and manager of Absolute Abstract.

Casey Miller, who opened another mortgage origination business in Little Rock after Freedom Financial shut down, and Soukkaseum were "team leaders" for Freedom Financial. Soukkaseum managed the company's Fort Smith office.

According to the indictment, Miller and the defendants defrauded the lenders by making fundamental misrepresentations in loan origination documents.

Existing liens were removed from title commitments, borrower income was inflated, and appraisers hired by Freedom Financial knowingly inflated the value of property pledged as collateral.

In one case, the indictment alleges that an appraiser named Bill Barnes "appraised a property he believed to be worth $17,000 for $29,000," and Soukkaseum submitted the appraisal to First Union Bank even when the owners said they didn't think it was worth as much as $10,000.

Casey Miller allegedly taught an apprentice appraiser named Mike Troutman how to create inflated appraisals in February 2000. "Mike Troutman subsequently inflated at least 25 percent of all the appraisals he completed for Freedom Financials," the indictment said.

Unindicted employees mentioned in the indictment include Dave Fleming, Robert Byrd and Nichole Jones, who were team leaders and loan office managers; Melissa Horner, who managed the comptroller's office at Freedom Financial in Little Rock; Arlene Ladd and Mike Ragsdale, who were managers for Absolute Abstract and Title.

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