Martin Calzada, 28, Los Angeles, California was indicted by a federal grand jury with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud, in connection with a scheme to defraud homeowners facing foreclosure. Calzada entered a plea of not guilty at his arraignment.
According to court documents, between August 2010 and October 2011, Calzada, and other employees of Star Reliable Mortgage, which had offices in Bakersfield, Visalia, and Salinas, California, targeted distressed homeowners with a fraudulent “loan elimination” scheme. Star Reliable charged clients an upfront fee — ranging from $2,500 to $4,500 — as well as monthly fees, based on false promises that the clients could own their homes “free and clear” as a result of Star Reliable’s services. In furtherance of the scheme, Calzada and other employees filed at county recorders’ offices fraudulent documents on behalf of the homeowner-clients that purported to replace the legitimate property trustees with fictitious trusts affiliated with Calzada and Star Reliable, all in an effort to “cloud title” and halt or stall the foreclosure process. Additionally, Calzada, and other employees working at his direction, told clients to stop paying their mortgages. They also falsely represented that each client had one million dollars in a U.S. government account that could be used to pay off a homeowner’s mortgage.
Instead of owning their homes “free and clear,” many of Star Reliable’s clients lost their homes in foreclosure. The scheme caused more than 100 homeowner-clients to pay approximately $875,000 to Star Reliable and lending institutions to lose more than $4 million. At least $270,000 of the money paid to Star Reliable by homeowner-clients was funneled back to Calzada.
Calzada’s next court date is a status conference and is set for March 21, 2016.
If convicted, Calzada faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. The case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Patrick R. Delahunty is prosecuting the case.