Martin Wayne Flanders, 50, formerly of Roseville, California, and Ligia Sandoval Spafford, 48, Roseville, pleaded guilty to mail fraud for their participation in a loan modification fraud scheme that targeted distressed homeowners. The couple used Ghost offers – i.e., fictitious offers to purchase the victim’s property through short sale – and skeleton bankruptcies – i.e., sham bankruptcy petitions that were quickly dismissed, to defraud homeowners.
According to court documents, between 2008 and 2010, Flanders charged clients advance fees in exchange for a number of financial services, including loan modifications, mortgage loan audits, credit repair, debt relief, bankruptcy filings, and a program to sell homes to “investors” with a rent-to-own option. Flanders and Sandoval marketed these services to economically distressed homeowners with particular emphasis on those who were Spanish-speakers. During a radio program aired twice weekly by a Bay Area Spanish-language Christian radio station, Radio Luz, Sandoval promoted the services she and Flanders offered. Flanders also advertised on a Spanish-language television station, Univision, and in Spanish-language magazines. About 98 percent of the defendants’ clients were of Hispanic descent, some of whom spoke little to no English. Sandoval speaks Spanish; Flanders does not.
Flanders and Sandoval made numerous false statements to investors as to the success of the programs being offered or refunds that would be available if the programs were not successful. “Ghost offers” – i.e., fictitious offers to purchase the victim’s property through short sale – and “skeleton bankruptcies” – i.e., sham bankruptcy petitions that were quickly dismissed by the bankruptcy court – were also used by Flanders or Sandoval to try to stall the foreclosure process. At least 25 to 30 individuals paid for services and did not receive them or did not receive refunds when the programs failed to deliver as promised. The total loss to the victims is at least $120,000. Some homeowners who were not able to obtain relief were foreclosed upon by their lenders.
Flanders has been detained since his arrest in October 2012. Sandoval is currently out of custody.
Flanders and Sandoval are scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Troy L. Nunley on June 11, 2015. Flanders and Sandoval face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced the guilty pleas.
“Flanders and Sandoval took advantage of victims with limited English proficiency, when those victims were most financially vulnerable,” said United States Attorney Wagner. “Predatory fraud schemes of this sort have been, and will continue to be, a prime focus of our efforts to prosecute mortgage fraud.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Todd A. Pickles is prosecuting the case.