Howard R. Shmuckler, 68, Virginia Beach, Virginia, was sentenced to 90 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for running a fraudulent mortgage rescue business that received substantial fees but actually modified clients’ mortgages in only a few cases.
As previously reported on Mortgage Fraud Blog, on April 10, 2012, Shmuckler pled guilty to six counts of wire fraud. According court records, Shmuckler, a convicted felon and disbarred attorney owned and operated a Vienna, Virginia mortgage-rescue business known as The Shmuckler Group (TSG). From June 2008 through March 2009, TSG took in nearly $2.8 million from approximately 865 clients whose mortgages were in distress and who came to Shmuckler looking for relief. Shmuckler aggressively recruited new clients and pocketed their money while pretending he was successful, was an attorney, and that the business had restructured hundreds of mortgages, stopped hundreds of foreclosures, and negotiated hundreds of short sales. In reality, TSG was able to obtain relief for approximately 4.5 percent of its clients.
Court records indicate that Shmuckler instructed clients to terminate contact with their mortgage companies and to stop making payments to their lenders. TSG never facilitated a modification of the mortgages referenced in the statement of facts filed with his plea agreement.
The court ordered that this sentence be served consecutive to a 75-month federal sentence Shmuckler received on April 5, 2012 in the District of Columbia involving a counterfeit check scheme.
Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Jon T. Rymer, Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC-OIG); and Christy Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP); made the announcement after sentencing by United States District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.
“Mr. Shmuckler is a cunning criminal who took advantage of distressed homeowners in desperate need of help,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Today’s sentence should send a clear warning to other fraudsters of the heavy price they will pay for preying on vulnerable people looking for help to save their homes.”
“Mr. Schmuckler portrayed himself as a successful attorney and mortgage advisor who was able to rescue mortgages and provide relief to homeowners, but, in reality, he was a fraud,” said Assistance Director in Charge McJunkin. “The public should be wary of such individuals who offer a service or product that seems too good to be true. It probably is.”
“At a time when homeowners across the nation are struggling to keep their homes, Shmuckler actively targeted the most vulnerable of them with his mortgage modification scam,“ said Special Inspector General Romero of SIGTARP. “Shmuckler exploited homeowners desperately seeking support through federal housing programs such as HAMP by essentially guaranteeing the homeowners mortgage modifications in exchange for an upfront fee. Shmuckler performed little, if any, service in return for the fees, and in many cases, the homeowners’ properties fell into foreclosure. SIGTARP and its partners in law enforcement will aggressively shut down these scams and hold their perpetrators accountable for their crimes.”
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the FDIC-OIG, and SIGTARP. Assistant United States Attorneys Timothy D. Belevetz and Uzo Asonye are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.