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After prison term for Tampa Bay mortgage fraud, he's back in business

ST. PETERSBURG — If mortgage fraud had a face during Tampa Bay's last housing boom, it could have been that of Victor Thomas Clavizzao.

A loan broker with a felony rap sheet, Clavizzao drew attention not only because of his hard-to-forget name but also for the brazen way in which he conned banks, Realtors and even some of his own relatives. In 2009, a federal judge sentenced Clavizzao to five years in prison for conspiring to fraudulently obtain nearly $6 million in mortgage loans.

It was among the larger mortgage fraud cases prosecuted in Central Florida.

Now Clavizzao is out of prison and back in the loan business, this time using the names Victor Thomas and Victor Thomasino. Corporate records show that he also has had two unlikely partners —- a Tampa doctor and a former employee of the federal prison where Clavizzao served part of his sentence.

The prison official could not be reached for comment but Hailiang Yang, an anesthesiologist, said he was shocked to see himself listed as a vice president of St. Petersburg-based Key Business Loans.

"I have absolutely no business with this man," Yang said.

In a phone interview this week, Clavizzao, 54, said that his current business is legitimate and has made "about" 100 loans in the past two years.

"Knock yourself out, I'm not doing anything wrong," he said, maintaining that he discloses his criminal history to potential borrowers. "Any person who has a problem about my past can choose to do business with me or not do business."

Clavizzao, a native New Yorker, had a lengthy record for fraud and grand theft before he moved to Tampa Bay in 2005 and began working as a loan officer at the height of the subprime lending frenzy. Using "straw buyers" and false income figures, he arranged loans on at least 18 houses and condos and pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in loan proceeds.

Among those whose names appeared as buyers were Barbara and Walter Norton, relatives of Clavizzao's ex-girlfriend. They said Clavizzao forged their signatures without their knowledge on $930,000 in loans for a waterfront home in St. Petersburg.

In 2009, Clavizzao pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud. At his sentencing, he expressed remorse but denied prosecutors' claims that he had used "sophisticated means'' to defraud lenders.

"Forging people's names — I find that to be sophisticated means," U.S. District Judge James Moody said in imposing the maximum penalty.

Moody allowed Clavizzao to remain free while awaiting his prison assignment but ordered him not to leave the Tampa Bay area without permission. Ignoring the order, Clavizzao slipped away to Ohio to marry Jacqueline Dean, registered as a sex offender because of a notorious case in which she helped to kidnap a nude dancer and glue the woman's eyes and genitalia shut.

At the time of his marriage to Dean, Clavizzao had not yet been divorced from his first four wives, records showed.

On his return from Ohio, Clavizzao immediately was taken into custody, and served most of his sentence at a federal prison in Marianna in Florida's Panhandle. In 2014, after his release, he registered the fictitious name "Victor Thomas.'' That same year, he, Jacqueline Clavizzao and Angus J. McCartney of Marianna were listed as officers of a new company, Key Business Loans in St. Petersburg.

McCartney is a former Department of Justice employee who once worked at the Marianna prison. No one answered repeated calls to a phone number connected to him.

On an annual report for Key Business Loans filed two months ago, Jacqueline Clavizzao had disappeared from the corporate roster while Yang, the Tampa doctor, had been added as vice president.

Yang told the Tampa Bay Times that Clavizzao had been a patient who started badgering him to invest in construction projects.

"The more he talked, the more doubt I had'' about him,'' Yang said. Obviously surprised when shown the annual report, Yang said he had not invested with Clavizzao and had never been involved with the company in any way.

On April 28, a day after a reporter talked to Yang, Clavizzao filed an amended report. He and McCartney are the only two officers now listed.

Key Business Loans has a professional-looking web site on which it describes itself as a "nationally recognized financial company" whose many services include unsecured loans and lines of credit. The web site is virtually identical to that of companies in Michigan and Maryland, right down to the photos and descriptions of three people who purportedly received loans — John L., Janet P., and Frank P.

Clavizzao said the web site was designed by "our parent company" but would not give its name. Asked where Key Business gets money to make loans, he said it comes from "investors and a network of lenders."

Key Business lists an address in downtown St. Petersburg's Plaza building but its office is primarily a virtual one with phones answered by a Plaza employee. Shown a photo of Clavizzao, one receptionist recognized him and said he occasionally comes in although he currently lives in Palm Coast near Daytona Beach.

It is unknown how active Key Business really is, how many borrowers it has or what kinds of loans it is making. Florida does not regulate private commercial lenders, on the premise that they are dealing with businesses, not with individual consumers.

In addition to his criminal record, Clavizzao has a long trail of debt.

Records show he has yet to pay thousands of dollars in court-ordered judgments, some as far back as 2007, to people and businesses he allegedly scammed.

As part of the punishment in his federal case, Clavizzao also was required to make $2 million in restitution to lenders he defrauded. The U.S. Attorney's office in Tampa said it does not disclose if defendants have paid.

A decade ago, Sophia Fields worked with Clavizzao at a St. Petersburg mortgage company. She vividly remembers him and wonders how much, if any, he's changed.

"He'd try to rush me to push paperwork through and when I wouldn't sign something, he'd get mad or get somebody else to do it," said Fields, who left the company partly because of Clavizzao. "He was a smooth talker and (the bosses) let him get away with things. Every time I think about why the mortgage industry failed, it's because of people like that doing all that crazy stuff."

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate

After prison term for Tampa Bay mortgage fraud, he's back in business 05/03/17 [Last modified: Thursday, May 4, 2017 10:19am]
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