Former FBI informant indicted on federal charges: mortgage fraud scheme alleged

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A federal grand jury indicted a onetime FBI informant Thursday, accusing him of running a mortgage fraud scheme similar to the scams that agents had paid him to help investigate in 2007 and 2008.

Paul Tomko, who was convicted in an earlier mortgage scam, faces eight new counts that include wire fraud and conspiracy, student-aid fraud and making false statements to his probation officer.

Tomko, 39, who now works as an adjunct professor at Cuyahoga Community College, said in a telephone interview that he had done nothing wrong.

"I have no idea what they're talking about," he said. "We certainly plan to fight this."

In 2009, Tomko pleaded guilty to fraud in connection with a dozen mortgage loans totaling nearly $1.2 million. He was accused of using straw buyers to obtain fraudulent appraisals that artificially inflated the true values of the properties. The homes were in Cleveland, East Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Lakewood and South Euclid.

Tomko's earlier plea deal required him to provide probation officers with the names of companies in which he had a financial interest, and prohibited him from operating any companies without the permission of his probation officer, court documents said.

But, the latest indictment states, a probation officer contacted Tomko at his Middleburg Heights home on Nov. 9, 2009, and noticed that a company called The Mortgage House was operating out of the residence.

When the officer questioned him, the indictment states, Tomko said the company was an undercover operation linked to his informant work and the FBI was aware of its existence. But Tomko had lied, according to the indictment, and the FBI was unaware of the business.

Tomko was also running another company, OKMOT Real Estate Co., according to the indictment. The charges state that Tomko recruited his housekeeper to apply for fraudulent mortgage loans totaling more than $428,000 for two properties in Cleveland, and other homes in Lakewood and Lorain. The applications falsely inflated her income and assets.

The housekeeper was not charged.

After the transactions closed, Tomko fraudulently pocketed about $100,000 of the proceeds by filing liens for work not performed, the indictment said.

Tomko also concealed the money he received from the FBI in order to fraudulently obtain student aid and grants from the U.S. Department of Education, according to the indictment.

In an interview on Thursday, Tomko said he worked as an informant for the FBI for more than three years, providing a Cleveland house for agents to set up a surveillance network to catch fraudulent appraisers.

He said the FBI never provided him with an IRS form 1099, as an independent contractor, to detail the money he was paid for more than 4,000 hours of work as an informant. Because he didn't know exactly how much he had received, he failed to declare the income on his income taxes.

He said he found it strange he was indicted for filing fraudulent student aid loans, but not for filing false tax forms.

The FBI paid Tomko a total of $27,000 in 2007 and 2008, to assist agents in other mortgage fraud investigations, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office.

Those cases that Tomko worked on remain solid, and should not be affected by the new indictment, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Christian Stickan.

"I don't believe there would be any impact on the cases he was involved in," Stickan said.

Tomko has worked since 2010 as an adjunct professor at Tri-C, where he teaches courses in accounting, business administration, and marketing, and is scheduled to teach courses in business math, personal finance and organizational behavior in the fall, according to Tri-C spokeswoman Christine Jindra.