TEXARKANA, Texas – A Texarkana, Texas, doctor has pleaded guilty today to a federal fraud violation, announced Eastern District of Texas Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei.
Dr. Rafael Otero, 68, pleaded guilty to an information charging him with defrauding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) before U.S. Magistrate Judge Caroline M. Craven. In his plea agreement, Dr. Otero agreed to pay restitution to HUD.
“Dr. Otero, and his son Antonio Otero, exploited a HUD-insured mortgage program designed to provide affordable housing for those suffering from diseases like Alzheimer’s,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas Ganjei. “While they left the HUD-insured mortgage unpaid, the Oteros took hundreds of thousands of dollars. Because of their actions, the American taxpayers ultimately suffered a loss of over $3.6 million.”
According to information presented in court, Dr. Otero was the majority owner of the Magnolia Alzheimer’s Assisted Living facility in Texarkana, Texas, and his son, Antonio Otero, was the facility’s administrator. In order to secure millions of dollars in necessary funding, the Oteros obtained a loan that was insured by HUD. The HUD-insured loan provided a favorable interest rate and did not require the owners of Magnolia to take personal responsibility for the loan in the event of a default. Instead, HUD would suffer the financial loss in the event that Magnolia defaulted on the loan. As a condition of this federal benefit, Magnolia agreed to be bound by a regulatory agreement with HUD that prohibited the owners from receiving money from Magnolia, unless the loan was being paid and Magnolia had surplus cash.
But instead of paying the HUD-insured loan, and in violation of the regulatory agreement they signed with HUD, the Oteros took hundreds of thousands of dollars from Magnolia. Dr. Otero received more than $150,000 from Magnolia in unauthorized compensation and other payments. Antonio Otero took even more money from Magnolia, using it to pay for $3,952 of camera equipment, a $3,247 watch, $2,520 in landscaping for his personal residence, a $27,408 personal mortgage payment, a $12,750 down payment on a personal vehicle, and $1,540 tickets to the Dallas Cowboys. Additionally, he took money from Magnolia and gave it to other individuals, including $13,000 for cosmetic surgery. When Dr. Otero learned that his son had been stealing money from Magnolia, Dr. Otero did not report him to authorities or remove him from his position. After Dr. Otero learned of his son’s theft, Antonio Otero stole an additional $62,000 from Magnolia.
Under federal statutes, Dr. Otero faces up to one year in federal prison at sentencing. The statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.
Antonio Otero pleaded guilty to equity skimming on October 28, 2019, and was sentenced on June 2, 2020, to 46 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Robert W. Schroeder III. Judge Schroeder also ordered Antonio Otero to pay $2 million in restitution to HUD.
This case was investigated by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan R. Hornok.