Thursday, April 3, 2003

Judge gives mortgage broker tongue-lashing, plus 6 months

By Sharon Turco
The Cincinnati Enquirer


A mortgage broker convicted of theft from clients was sentenced to six months in prison and got a message from an angry judge Wednesday.

Judge Melba Marsh sentenced Pamela Sanford in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court after making sure Sanford had made provisions to repay the nine victims by the end of the week.

Anger crept into the judge's voice when she pointed out that Sanford failed to comply with her order to mortgage her Cheviot home or sell it to get the $50,000 needed for restitution. Instead, Sanford's parents gave her the money.

"Very few times as a judge do I send out messages because people don't listen," Marsh said. "(But today) I need to send a message to the community that there is a line, a trust line.

"You don't prey on people, you don't victimize people."

Statements in court described Sanford plucking clients from church congregations, professing faith in God to gain their trust, then swindling thousands of dollars from the first-time home buyers.

An assembler, a crossing guard, a beautician, a security guard, a store manager, a minister, a custodian - people who had very little money - lost between $2,000 and $5,000 each in the scam.

The thefts date to late 2000, and were discovered when one of Sanford's clients found a phony fee in her mortgage. The woman pestered Fifth Third Bank until a fraud investigator got involved.

Sanford, 29, was convicted Feb. 7. She was accused of creating debt for clients, adding it to their mortgage so it appeared to be a bank payment, and then putting the money in her personal account at Fifth Third. She worked at Pengrove Mortgage Co. in Blue Ash at the time.

"She used her relationship with God to take advantage of them," said Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Yvette Butler.

Sanford sniffled and hid her face in her hands as Marsh read how her clients suffered.

One man's van was repossessed after Sanford told him to stop making payments because she added $5,000 to the mortgage to cover the payment. Instead, Sanford pocketed the money.

Sanford apologized during sentencing.

"I am very remorseful, very sorry," she said. "I made choices that hurt a lot of people."

Drew Reed, branch manager of Pengrove's Blue Ash office, noted in a victim impact statement that he cannot "begin to estimate" the economic loss to the company.


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