HOUSTON, TX (USDOJ.Today) Two Houston-area family members have been ordered to federal prison following their convictions on multiple counts to include conspiracy, bank fraud, false statements on credit applications, wire fraud and mail fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
A federal jury deliberated for approximately seven hours before convicting Carlos Wydler, 49, and Leyla Wydler, 60, both of Houston, on March 7, 2017, following a trial that spanned four weeks.
Today, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen imposed an 84-month sentence for Carlos Wydler and ordered him to pay $6,804,260 in restitution to the victim bank and its insurer. U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen sentenced his step-mother to 132 months during a telephonic sentencing hearing in June. She was also ordered to pay the $6 million in restitution joint and several with her stepson. At the hearings, the court heard from the bank’s president who testified it was the largest fraud loss in the bank’s 113-year history
“The capture, conviction and sentencing of this mother and stepson highlight the FBI’s unending commitment to hold accountable greedy individuals who take advantage of their position of trust,” said Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI. “The FBI prioritizes financial institution fraud because it is not a victimless crime. Although the Wydlers did not wield weapons or threaten tellers, they endangered the stability of the federal banking system and our economy.”
Leyla Wydler was the owner of several Houston-area businesses including Globan Mortgage Company, Casa Milagro and First Milagro. In the spring 2007, Carlos Wydler went to work at a California bank as a vice-president in charge of the bank’s credit card department. Shortly thereafter, the Wydlers developed a scheme in which Leyla Wydler would send credit card applications to the bank for Carlos Wydler to approve. He approved the applications for high credit lines and then, calling them “balance transfers,” cash advanced the entire credit line to the borrower via wire or check with Leyla Wydler taking a fee from the borrowers’ loan proceeds.
“Greed and deception were at the heart of the Wydler’s scheme, which took advantage of their positions of trust within the banking industry,” said Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). “This case demonstrates that the USPIS remains resolute in our mission to bring to justice those who fraudulently use the nation’s mail system in the furtherance of their deceptive schemes.”
During trial, the evidence demonstrated that the Wydlers were also developing a real estate project in Houston at the time and used the “balance transfer” program to finance investors in their project. The jury heard that the bank did not know or approve of the fee-sharing or real estate financing arrangements.
For approximately a year, hundreds of loan applications were faxed or emailed from Leyla Wydler’s business in Houston to Carlos Wydler at the bank in California. Many of these contained falsified income information and falsified supporting documents about borrowers’ employment, income and assets. Two eyewitnesses testified they saw Leyla Wydler routinely insert falsified income numbers, sometimes using white-out, on loan applications.
Leyla Wydler skimmed more than $1.4 million from loan proceeds, with Carlos Wydler approving approximately $600,000 more in unauthorized loans to family members. More than half of the Texas borrowers run through the Wydler-family business in Houston defaulted on their loans. The bank sustained a loss of more than $6 million.
The defense attempted to convince the jury that Carlos Wydler followed bank policy in his approval decisions. Leyla Wydler’s attorney argued that she did not know that the information she was sending contained falsified information.
The jury did not believe their claims and ultimately convicted both defendants of conspiracy, bank fraud, false statements on credit applications, wire fraud and mail fraud. Carlos Wydler was also found guilty on six counts of misapplication of bank funds.
The Wydlers were taken into custody immediately after the verdict where they will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The FBI, USPIS and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Belinda Beek and John Lewis prosecuted the case.