By Kafia A. Hosh
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 16, 2009; B02
An Ashburn real estate agent has been charged with several counts of mortgage fraud after helping more than 100 people buy houses they couldn't afford and defrauding lenders of about $50 million, the Loudoun County sheriff said yesterday.
Diane H. Frederick Atari, 42, fixed her clients' poor credit scores and inflated their incomes so they could qualify for mortgages they otherwise would not have gotten, county authorities said. The alleged fraud occurred between 2006 and last year. Many of the homes were bought in eastern Loudoun and in Fairfax County.
Authorities say they believe that Atari left the country last week for Jordan, where her ex-husband's relatives live. The sheriff's office has contacted Interpol to help them track her down.
Atari has been charged with 10 counts of false statements to obtain credit, and each count carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence if she is convicted. She also has been charged with one count of money laundering and one count of racketeering, which each carry sentences of up to 40 years in prison.
Atari owns and operates ACR Consulting and Atari Management in Loudoun. Her scheme involved preying on "hard-working people" who had low-paying jobs and poor credit, said Howard M. Mulholland, an investigator with the Virginia attorney general's office.
Investigators said Atari falsified employment documents to show that her clients had higher-paying jobs than they really had and in some cases deposited her money into their bank accounts to show higher balances.
She also is accused of boosting her clients' credit scores so they could qualify for mortgages, sheriff's officials said. Atari would advise credit card firms to add her clients as "authorized users" of cards that belonged to her associates who had excellent credit, authorities said.
"She would advertise that if you had bad credit you could come to her," Mulholland said.
Many of her clients could not afford their monthly mortgage payments, and their homes went into foreclosure.
Investigators said they believe Atari made about $1 million from the mortgage scheme. That money came mostly from commissions on the sale of the homes. Authorities are investigating other people possibly involved in the scheme.
Diane Atari was married to Ali H. Atari, an Ashburn restaurateur who is believed to be a distant relative of Loudoun businessman Osama El-Atari. El-Atari is suspected of involvement in a fraud scheme, his creditors and a Loudoun County Circuit Court judge say.