Luis Belevan, Phoenix, Arizona, was sentenced on February 27, 2012, by U.S. District Judge James A. Teilborg to 60 months’ imprisonment for his role in a 2009-2010 mortgage rescue scheme that affected at least 1,800 local distressed homeowners.
Belevan pleaded guilty in October to conspiring with Brian Prehoda to defraud homeowners into paying an up-front fee of $1,595 to their company, The Guardian Group, LLC, based on false promises of mortgage assistance. The Guardian Group targeted its false claims at local Hispanic homeowners. Brian Prehoda is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Teilborg on March 12, 2012.
In his guilty plea, Belevan admitted to falsely representing to homeowners and mortgage lenders that The Guardian Group had the financial backing of a $40 billion hedge fund to purchase mortgage notes from the original lenders. Belevan admitted that representations that his company could then refinance the notes at 90 percent of the decreased market value of the property, using a 30-year mortgage and a favorable interest rate, were also false. According to the scheme, homeowners would benefit by avoiding foreclosure and obtaining a decreased mortgage balance, a lower interest rate, and lower monthly mortgage payments.
The Guardian Group had no financial backing at all, however, and in just 10 months of operation, the company obtained fees from at least 1,800 victim homeowners based on their misrepresentations. The company was shut down by the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions in May 2010 and was then the subject of state and federal investigations.
In addition to 60 months in prison, Belevan was also sentenced to three years of supervised release following imprisonment and was ordered to pay almost $3 million in restitution to the victims.
Acting U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel announced the sentence and lauded the efforts of the FBI’s mortgage fraud investigators. She also confirmed the United States Attorney’s Office’s commitment to prosecuting all forms of mortgage fraud by stating, “We are committed to protecting distressed homeowners from exploitation, protecting financial institutions and the legal system from this type of fraud, and vigorously prosecuting those who commit the fraud.”
“The mortgage crisis in the greater Phoenix Metropolitan area has been devastating to homeowners and the economy,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge James L. Turgal, Jr., Phoenix Division. “Belevan preyed on distressed Hispanic homeowners who were trying to avoid foreclosure on their homes. Belevan conspired with an associate by making false representations of mortgage rescue assistance which resulted in financial losses to homeowners with no resolution of their mortgage concerns. The FBI’s Mortgage Fraud Task Force continues to bring those individuals who intentionally defraud homeowners to justice.”
The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Monica Klapper, District of Arizona, Phoenix.