Bay Area Rapper Mark “Kafani” Hicks And Two Co-Conspirators Sentenced To Prison For Multi-Million Dollar Mortgage Fraud Scheme

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

SAN FRANCISCO – Bay area rapper Mark “Kafani” Hicks, aka Amir Rashad, was sentenced to 87 months in prison for his role in orchestrating a complex loan fraud and identity theft conspiracy, announced United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds, FBI Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan, U.S. Postal Inspection Service Acting Inspector in Charge Kevin Rho, and U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Shawn M. Bradstreet. Co-defendants Demarcus Hicks and Dionysius “Donnie” Costello were sentenced to 48 months and 54 months respectively for their roles in the two-year conspiracy. An additional three members of the fraud ring were sentenced on May 23, 2022, and June 13, 2022. A seventh alleged member remains a fugitive. The sentences were handed down by the Hon. James Donato, United States District Judge.

According to the plea agreements, Mark Hicks admitted to being at the center of a conspiracy in which he directed a team of criminals who stole approximately $2 million from banks and lending institutions. Specifically, Hicks admitted that within months of being released from prison in November 2017, he began orchestrating a scheme and conspiracy to defraud lending institutions and financial institutions. Hicks admitted that he obtained the personal identifying information of nine victims; obtained additional information about the victims, such as their credit history; used the illegally-obtained information to create fraudulent bank accounts, emails, and phone numbers in the victims’ names; and then applied for mortgage refinance loans in the victims’ names. 

Hicks admitted that he used these methods to victimize nine individuals when fraudulently applying for eight loans. In some cases, the loans were not approved. In other cases, Hicks convinced lending institutions to forward funds to fraudulently-created bank accounts. 

During the sprawling two-year loan fraud conspiracy, Hicks impersonated victims in over a dozen phone calls with banks, lending institutions, and gold dealers. Hicks used the stolen funds primarily to buy gold bars and coins that his co-conspirators sold for cash. Over $480,000 of the illicit gains were recovered from a safe deposit box controlled by Hicks’s relatives.

Demarcus Hicks (Mark Hicks’s half-brother) and Costello each admitted to assisting Hicks in executing various aspects of the scheme. For example, Demarcus Hicks admitted that after he was made aware of the scheme, he obtained and passed on to coconspirators the personal identifying information of a victim, he sold gold bars and coins that had been purchased with the proceeds of the scheme, he traveled with coconspirators who impersonated victims to get fraudulent loan documents notarized, and he withdrew cash from bank accounts that had been fraudulently established as part of the scheme. Similarly, Costello admitted that after being informed about the scheme, he obtained counterfeit drivers’ licenses with the names of victims but photographs of coconspirators, and facilitated meetings between coconspirators and notaries to obtain fraudulent loan documents. 

In sum, the scheme included the following defendants:

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Defendant Age, Residence Statutes of Conviction Sentence Imposed
Mark “Kafani” Hicks 42, Oakley, California 18 U.S.C. § 1349
18 U.S.C. § 1344
18 U.S.C. § 1028A
87 months
Demarcus Hicks 38, Stockton, California 18 U.S.C. § 1349
18 U.S.C. § 1344
18 U.S.C. § 1028A
48 months
Dionysius Costello 38, Berkeley, California 18 U.S.C. § 1349
18 U.S.C. § 1344
18 U.S.C. § 1028A
54 months
Susan Arreola-Martin 72, Antioch, California 18 U.S.C. § 1349
18 U.S.C. § 1344
18 U.S.C. § 1028A
21 U.S.C. § 841
84 months
Leif Skorochod 48, San Francisco, California 18 U.S.C. § 1349
18 U.S.C. § 1344
18 U.S.C. § 1028A
14.5 months
Christopher Pool 57, Stockton, California 18 U.S.C. § 1349
18 U.S.C. § 1344
18 U.S.C. § 1028A
15 months

Judge Donato ordered each of the defendants to pay restitution in the amount of $1,904,988.79. 

The cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barbara J. Valliere and David J. Ward, with assistance from Claudia Hyslop and Kathy Tat. The prosecutions are the result of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Secret Service, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.