Va. jeweler who switched clients’ diamonds sentenced in separate mortgage-fraud case

A Great Falls jeweler already convicted of swapping diamonds in customers’ jewelry for cheaper stones was sentenced to four years and four months in prison Friday for a separate mortgage-fraud scheme that netted him more than $882,000.

Robert Mikail, 41, told a federal judge in Alexandria that he initially intended to flip houses for profit but that when the housing market crashed, “it never happened.” Prosecutors said his actions were more nefarious. Mikail, they said, recruited straw buyers — people with limited education, English abilities and financial sophistication whose names he could use on loan documents — to help him secure loans and buy homes in Ashburn, Va., then let the homes fall into foreclosure as he pocketed some of the money from the loans.

In total, prosecutors said, Mikail bought 36 properties in the Ashburn area worth $19.9 million and walked away with more than $882,000 for himself. His lenders — who were duped by the fake information Mikail had listed for his straw buyers on loan applications — suffered $5.9 million in losses, prosecutors said.

“This really was an extensive mortgage-fraud scheme,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Nathanson said in court Friday. “The numbers are quite large: $20 million in loans, $6 million in losses.”

In Fairfax County Circuit Court in 2012, Mikail was sentenced to three years in prison for swapping diamonds in customers’ jewelry with cheaper stones. Authorities said that scam netted him nearly $50,000 worth of jewels.

Prosecutors in the mortgage-fraud case had asked Judge James C. Cacheris to sentence Mikail to five years in prison; his defense attorney, Greg English, argued that Mikail should face only a term of the time he had already served in jail. English said that his client made a “stupid decision” but did not mean for any homes to fall into foreclosure. English said after the hearing that he thought the sentence was fair.

Mikail pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in the mortgage-fraud case in July. Prosecutors said he recruited five straw buyers for the scheme — agreeing to handle all aspects of the home purchases — and then lied on their loan applications, often claiming that they worked at his Opus Jewelry store in Ashburn. Mikail told the buyers that he would find renters for the homes and ultimately sell them for a profit, court filings show.

In some cases, prosecutors wrote, Mikail worked with some loan officers who would not have known that the information was false but also with two who knew about the scheme. One pleaded guilty in November 2012 and was sentenced to two years in prison; the other was convicted in November 2013 and is awaiting sentencing.

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Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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