Little Canada man charged in mortgage fraud case

Rod Aslesen and three others accused of conducting over $2 million in illegal wire transfers

Rod Aslesen

A federal grand jury has indicted a Little Canada man and three others in a mortgage fraud case.

Robert “Rod” Aslesen, 65, of Little Canada, as well as Thomas Rosensteel of Excelsior, Justin Christenson of East Bethel and Dale Wurzinger of Burnsville, allegedly “devised and executed a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders” according to an indictment filed July 9 in U.S. District Court.

The four men are charged with eight counts of wire fraud totaling over $2 million and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The scheme, as detailed by the indictment, alleges that from July 2006 to October 2007, the men and several others “known and unknown to the grand jury” recruited “unsophisticated or insider buyers” to apply for mortgage loans for residential real estate including excess builder inventory for new developments in Otsego, Maple Lake, Big Lake, Ramsey and Plymouth.

In order to entice prospective buyers to purchase the homes, the men allegedly told buyers they would get money back after closing the transaction. In order to do this, the properties were appraised at an inflated price, down payments were fronted and loan applications were falsified so there would be “excess loan proceeds sufficient to cover kickbacks to buyers.”

The indictment states Aslesen is the owner of several businesses allegedly involved in the scheme, including Options Plus Realty, Inc., Split Rock Title, LLC, Eastwind Construction Partners, LLC, and RETAMCO, Inc. A Google search for the businesses lists a Roseville address for Split Rock Title and RETAMCO, as well as a Maplewood address for Options Plus Realty.

According to the indictment, mortgage lenders were told Options Plus received a “substantial ‘commission’” ranging from $25,000 to $70,000 per transaction. Eastwind Construction was used as a similar conduit for kickbacks, according to the indictment, as mortgage lenders were informed the company was entitled to a “consulting fee” for services that were never actually provided.

“Almost all of the loans funded as part of this scheme defaulted, and the properties were foreclosed upon, causing millions of dollars in losses,” the indictment said.

According to the U.S. attorney’s office, three other individuals connected to the alleged scheme have already pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

“The allegations in this indictment illustrate a sophisticated scheme carried out by licensed professionals in the real estate industry,” U.S. attorney Andrew Luger said in a statement. “We have been working closely with the FBI and the Minnesota Department of Commerce Fraud Bureau to bring charges against these four individuals who used their knowledge and position to take advantage of the system.”

If found guilty, the four men face a maximum of 30 years in prison for each of the nine counts.

According to a website that advertises bible study classes led by “Pastor Rod” at Crossroads Church in Woodbury, Aslesen was ordained as a pastor in October 2004. The website also states he has led bible studies at the Ramsey County Care Center in Maplewood, and that he created a “home church” at Garden Terrace Senior Apartments in Little Canada, which he and his wife have led for “over 9 years.”

Aslesen at one point also led a bible study group at a local jail called “1 Door 1 Key Ministries.”

Kathleen Wichterman said that she and her husband Jim met Aslesen during their training to become ministers at Sarah Family Ministries in St. Paul. She said Aslesen helped her maintain her website from 2009 until recently.

“I...wouldn’t think that of him at all,” said Wichterman after learning of the charges against Aslesen. “From my discernment of his character, I believe Rod to be an upstanding example of a man of integrity, warmth, and generosity.”

Aslesen told the Review via email that he had “plenty of comments” about the charges, but after receiving “some very wise Godly counsel ... from a Christian Brother” decided instead to ask for prayers for himself and his wife Patricia “during this time of testing.”

Paul Baertschi, Aslesen's attorney, told the Review via email that Aslesen "adamantly denies the charges."
"All activity was honest and under legal consultation," Baertschi wrote. "The U.S. Attorney thinks that rebates to the buyer are fraudulent unless specifically disclosed to the mortgage company. We disagree."

The four defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearance in court July 24.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.

 

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