The Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) today announced that Walter Ozell Weatherington was arrested and charged with grand theft and organized fraud for his alleged role in orchestrating an advance fee for loan scam. The case is being prosecuted by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.
Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “My Statewide Prosecutors work diligently to fight fraud and stop scams targeting Floridians. This case is another great example of the work our office does every day to protect Floridians and bring to justice those unscrupulous individuals exploiting the good faith of others—all in an effort to make a dishonest dollar. I want to thank OFR Commissioner Weigel for working with our office on this organized fraud case and for partnering with our Statewide Prosecutors to build a Stronger, Safer Florida.”
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “Florida ranks second nationally in fraud and identity theft reports, costing Floridians an estimated $89.6 million in fraud losses last year alone. It’s especially alarming when fraud is committed by a supposed trusted financial advisor. Thank you to Commissioner Weigel and his team for their diligence in this case and stopping this fraudster from preying on more hard-working Floridians.”
OFR Commissioner Russell C. Weigel, III, said, “It is illegal in Florida for a loan broker to assess or collect any fees in advance of a loan closing, and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation will continue to fight to protect Floridians. Thank you to OFR’s investigators, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution for their hard work in this case.”
Weatherington allegedly told victim borrowers that their money would be used to pay “due diligence or commitment fees,” and victims understood that the funding of their loans was conditioned on the payment of the fee. However, no loans were funded and Weatherington purportedly used victims’ money for other purposes, including to pay personal expenses.
The OFR previously brought administrative action against Weatherington, in November 2015, and again in June 2018, for similar offenses. The arrest was made by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation was conducted by the OFR. The case is being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.
The Florida Office of Financial Regulation provides regulatory oversight for Florida’s financial services providers. Our mission is to protect Floridians, promote a safe and sound financial marketplace, and contribute to the growth of Florida’s economy with smart, efficient and effective regulation of the financial services industry.