Richard Bruce Stevens, 52, San Antonio, Texas, appeared in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez and pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud,
Stevens faces a maximum statutory penalty of twenty years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Restitution could also be ordered. Stevens will remain on bond pending sentencing, which is set for October 30, 2017.
A federal grand jury in Dallas returned an indictment in December 2016 charging Stevens and three others with felony offenses stemming from a “foreclosure rescue scheme” they ran from approximately February 2012 through January 2013. Mark Demetri Stein, 36, Carrollton, Texas, is scheduled for trial August 28, 2017. Bruce Kevin Hawkins, 52, Desoto, Texas, and Christina Renee Caveny, 37, Dallas, Texas, both pleaded guilty to their role in the scheme and are awaiting sentencing.
According to documents filed in the case, Stein operated Real Estate Solutions, Stevens used Texas Real Estate Services, and Hawkins formed ERealty Mortgage Group, LLC, as foreclosure rescue companies. The conspirators used third parties to contact homeowners and offer them an opportunity to get out of their present home loans and receive a new home loan with a reduced interest payment and reduced monthly payment. Stevens and other conspirators falsely represented to homeowners that they had “investors” standing by who were ready to quickly purchase the homeowner’s present loan from the lender holding the current mortgage. They also falsely represented that they would use investors to purchase the homeowner’s loan from the original lender at a greatly reduced price through a “short sale” process.
Furthermore, Stevens and other conspirators falsely represented to the homeowners that the homeowners had the legal authority to transfer their homeowner’s deed to the defendants.
As part of the scheme, the conspirators fraudulently required homeowners to start making all future loan payments to them based on fraudulent so-called “loans,” and they also told homeowners to ignore late payment notices sent by lenders. As part of the scheme, the conspirators conducted a fraudulent “closing” for each homeowner where they caused the homeowner to pay them a large down payment on the new “loan,” and they also had the homeowner sign fraudulent documents, such as a promissory note, deed of trust, special warranty deed, and/or a so-called “land trust.”
Further, according to plea documents, the conspirators falsely represented to homeowners that the conspirators could “sell” their property back to the homeowner with a new loan, when the conspirators well knew they did not legally own the property. The conspirators also told homeowners to ignore notices of nonpayment from their present lender as they continued to unlawfully collect monthly so called “mortgage payments” from homeowners. In fact, conspirators instructed several homeowners to file for bankruptcy but to not follow up with the bankruptcy process as an additional means to delay foreclosure and conceal the conspirators’ criminal conduct. Conspirators concealed that all down payment and monthly mortgage payments fraudulently collected from homeowners was spent for their own personal benefit.
The defendants recruited at least 70 distressed and vulnerable homeowners who were facing the imminent threat of foreclosure on their homes and fraudulently collected a total of at least $242,000 from them.
This case is one of several felony prosecutions of bankruptcy-related crimes prosecuted as a result of the Bankruptcy Fraud Initiative in the Northern District of Texas. These prosecutions are identified following a careful review of many criminal referrals sent by the Office of the United States Trustee in Dallas to the United States Attorneys Office. Since May 2013, a total of 26 defendants have been charged as part of that initiative. To date, 23 defendants have been convicted, one resulted in a mistrial, and two are pending trial.
The plea was announced by U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas. The Dallas FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jarvis is in charge of the prosecution.