Ex-fugitive arraigned on charges tied to $50 million mortgage fraud scheme
Tuesday, February 22, 2011; 9:22 PM
An Ashburn real estate agent who fled the United States in July 2009 was arraigned in Loudoun County Circuit Court on Tuesday on charges stemming from an alleged mortgage scheme that defrauded lenders of $50 million, according to authorities.
Diane H. Frederick Atari, 43, was arrested in Turkey in October 2009 and arrived at Dulles International Airport on Friday after a 16-month extradition process. She was indicted in July 2009 and faces a possible sentence of up to 280 years in prison if convicted on 12 felony charges, including providing false statements, racketeering and money laundering, investigators said.
In her first court appearance since her return last week, Atari made an unexpected and emotional statement, telling Loudoun County Circuit Court Chief Judge James H. Chamblin that she thought she had been unfairly and exclusively targeted.
"I have been a business owner in Loudoun County for 15 years," she said. "I've run an honest business. . . . I have raised my family in this county."
She said that investigators were trying "to put everything on my company" and claimed that 65 other people were involved in the fraud.
"I stand here by myself," she said. "It's not justice. It's not fair. . . . I've tried to offer my cooperation, to say it was other companies, it was not my company."
Standing alone at the defendant's table, clad in a striped inmate's jumpsuit, Atari's voice began to break.
"All I've ever asked is for the truth," she said, starting to cry. "You can't put all of this on me. I'm a real estate agent. I don't do loans."
Chamblin told her that while her comments ultimately may be relevant to the case, they could not be taken into proper consideration until a later date. Atari, who has not chosen a lawyer to represent her but said she plans to do so soon, will appear in court again March 11 with her attorney for a scheduling hearing.
Atari owned and operated ACR Consulting and Atari Management, both in Loudoun. Her clients were typically prospective homeowners who were unable to qualify for mortgages because of bad credit or low income.
"This woman preyed on vulnerable people to pursue and live the American dream," Commonwealth's Attorney James E. Plowman (R) said at a news conference Tuesday.
Atari is charged with fraudulently fixing her clients' credit scores and inflating their incomes on financial records so they could qualify for mortgage loans that they would not have received otherwise, according to authorities. She is alleged to have personally netted more than $1 million in fees and commission payments from the scheme, which involved more than 100 victims in Virginia, investigators said.