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Larry Allen Todt, 66, formerly of Malibu, California was sentenced to over seven years in prison and ordered to pay over $3,000,000 in restitution for his role in a fraudulent mortgage elimination scheme.

On December 6, 2017, Todt was convicted following trial on one count of conspiracy and one count of bank fraud.

According to court documents, between April 22, 2010, and November 18, 2011, Todt was a member of a conspiracy that ran a mortgage elimination program purporting to help distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure. The conspirators fraudulently altered the chain of title on residential properties, sold the properties, and received the sales proceeds.

As a requirement for participation in the “mortgage elimination program,” the conspirators enrolled homeowners as members in a Nevada City-based church named Shon-te-East-a, Walks With Spirit, or its successor entity, Pillow Foundation. The conspirators indicated to the homeowners that these entities would offer protection against the banks.

Todt ran a branch of the mortgage elimination program, recruiting homeowners into the scheme, marshaling the necessary recorded documents, and guiding the sale of the homes. Once the homeowner enrolled with Shon-te-East-a or Pillow Foundation, Todt would have a sham deed of trust created and recorded, giving the impression that the homeowner had refinanced the mortgage loan with a new lender. In reality, the new lender was a fake entity controlled by the conspirators, and the homeowner owed no money to the purported new lender.

The next step in the process was also a recorded document. The conspirators caused a fake deed of reconveyance to be recorded, giving the appearance that the true mortgage loan had been discharged and that the true lien holder no longer had a security interest in the home.

With title appearing to be clear, the conspirators caused the sale of the home with the proceeds split between the co-conspirators and the homeowners.

In total, 37 properties were sold through the Shon-te-East-a conspiracy. The conspirators recorded fraudulent documents on an additional approximately 100 homes, but were unable to sell these before the scheme unraveled.

One co-defendant, George B. Larson, formerly of San Rafael, California was convicted at trial along with Todt and sentenced to 121 months in prison. One other co-defendant, Michael Romano, Benicia, California was sentenced to 37 months in prison following his guilty plea. Remus A. Kirkpatrick, formerly of Oceanside, California and Laura Pezzi, Roseville, California have previously pleaded guilty. Tisha Trites and Todd Smith, both of San Diego, California pleaded guilty in related cases. All are awaiting sentencing.

Co-defendants John Michael DiChiara, Penn Valley, California, and James Castle, Santa Rosa, California are awaiting trial. The charges against DiChiara and Castle are only allegations; both defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott made the announcement.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Audrey B. Hemesath and Todd A. Pickles are prosecuting the case.

 

Zalathiel Aguila, 45, Vallejo, California pleaded guilty last Friday to conspiring to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud.

According to court documents, from September 2004 through February 2008, Aguila and co-conspirators Sergio Roman Barrientos and Omar Anabo operated an entity named Capital Access LLC, Vallejo, California. Capital Access preyed on homeowners nearing foreclosure, convinced them to sign away title in their homes, spent any equity those homeowners had saved, and used straw buyers to defraud federally insured financial institutions out of millions of dollars in home loans obtained under false pretenses. The equity stripped from the properties was then used for operational expenses of the scheme and personal expenses of the conspirators. Vulnerable homeowners across California lost their homes and savings as a result of the scheme, and lenders lost an estimated $10.47 million from the fraud. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=+Zalathiel+Aguila

Barrientos and Anabo are scheduled to be sentenced on September 21, 2018, and April 26, 2019, respectively.

Aguila is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. on November 16, 2018. Aguila faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million 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.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott made the announcement.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew M. Yelovich and Todd A. Pickles are prosecuting the case.

 

George B. Larsen, 56, formerly of San Rafael, California was sentenced to 10 years and one month in prison and ordered to pay $1,759,100 in restitution for his role in a fraudulent mortgage elimination scheme.

On December 6, 2017, Larsen was convicted following trial on one count of conspiracy and four counts of bank fraud. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=+George+B.+Larsen

According to court documents, between April 22, 2010, and November 18, 2011, Larsen was a member of a conspiracy that ran a mortgage elimination program purporting to help distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure. The conspirators fraudulently altered the chain of title on residential properties, sold the properties, and received the sales proceeds.

As a requirement for participation in the “mortgage elimination program,” the conspirators enrolled homeowners as members in a Nevada City-based church named Shon-te-East-a, Walks With Spirit, or its successor entity Pillow Foundation. The conspirators indicated to the homeowners these entities would offer protection against the banks.

Larsen ran a branch of the mortgage elimination program, recruiting homeowners into the scheme, marshalling the necessary recorded documents, and guiding the sale of the homes. Once the homeowner enrolled with Shon-te-East-a or Pillow Foundation, Larsen would have a sham deed of trust created and recorded, giving the impression that the homeowner had refinanced the mortgage loan with a new lender. In reality, the new lender was a fake entity controlled by the conspirators, and the homeowner owed no money to the purported new lender.

The next step in the process was also a recorded document. The conspirators caused a fake deed of reconveyance to be recorded, giving the appearance that the true mortgage loan had been discharged and that the true lienholder no longer had a security interest in the home.

With title appearing to be clear, the conspirators caused the sale of the home, with the proceeds split between the co-conspirators and the homeowners.

In total, 37 properties were sold through the Shon-te-East-a conspiracy. The conspirators recorded fraudulent documents on an additional approximately 100 homes, but were unable to sell these before the scheme unraveled.

One co-defendant, Larry Todt, formerly of Malibu, California was convicted at trial along with Larsen. Three other co-defendants have previously entered guilty pleas: Remus A. Kirkpatrick, formerly of Oceanside, California, Michael Romano, Benicia, California and Laura Pezzi, Roseville, California. Tisha Trites and Todd Smith, both of San Diego, California pleaded guilty in related cases. All are awaiting sentencing.

Co-defendants John Michael DiChiara, of Penn Valley, and James Castle, of Santa Rosa, are awaiting trial. The charges against DiChiara and Castle are only allegations: both defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Co-defendants John Michael DiChiara, Penn Valley, California and James Castle, Santa Rosa, California are awaiting trial. The charges against DiChiara and Castle are only allegations: both defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott made the announcement.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Audrey B. Hemesath and Todd A. Pickles are prosecuting the case.

 

SAN FRANCISCO ­— Two former senior executives at Sonoma Valley Bank and an attorney for one of its biggest borrowers were sentenced to prison Friday for their roles in defrauding the bank, costing taxpayers and investors millions of dollars when it collapsed in 2010. Sean Cutting, the bank’s former president and CEO, and Brian Melland, its former vice president and chief loan officer, each received eight-year sentences from U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston.

Source: Sonoma Valley Bank executives sent to prison for bank fraud

Trung Anh Le, 36, California, pleaded guilty to one count of pattern of mortgage lending fraud, a category “B” felony. The fraud was committed in March of 2015.

Le misrepresented himself as the owner of three pieces of real estate property in Las Vegas, Nevada by impersonating the true owners of the property as a way to secure a loan in the amount of $180,000. As a result of Le’s misrepresentation, the title company filed deeds with the Clark County Recorder’s Office, effectively encumbering the properties.

Pattern of mortgage lending fraud is punishable by 3-20 years of imprisonment and a fine of no more than $50,000.The sentencing hearing for Le is scheduled for September 17, 2018 in the Eighth Judicial District Court.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt made the announcement.

My office is committed to protecting homeowners from fraudulent scams, and I encourage those who suspect they’ve fallen victim to a scam to file a complaint with my office,” said Laxalt.

This case was prosecuted by the Nevada Attorney General’s Criminal Prosecution Unit.

To view the criminal Information for Le, click here. To file a complaint about someone suspected of committing fraud, click here.

Momoud Aref Abaji, 37, Huntington Beach, California was sentenced to federal prison for his leadership role in a “builder bailout” mortgage fraud scheme.

The scheme Abaji operated resulted in the fraudulent purchase of more than 100 condominium units around the country, causing more than $10 million in losses when the properties went into foreclosure.

Abaji, along with several co-conspirators, operated the scheme through Excel Investments and related companies based in Santa Ana and Irvine, California. The scheme involved kickbacks from condominium builders during the 2008 financial crisis, that Abaji and his co-conspirators hid from lenders to convince them to fund loans in excess of the actual purchase price. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Maher+Obagi

During the course of the scheme, co-conspirators identified condominium developments around the country where the builders were struggling to sell units and arranged to purchase multiple units at a discount. The builders benefited by making it appear that their condos were selling and maintaining their value, while members of the conspiracy obtained the kickbacks.

The co-conspirators negotiated with condominium builders in California, Florida and Arizona for discount units. The defendants bought units for themselves, their relatives, and on behalf of “straw buyers” whom they brought into the scheme. They identified straw buyers by looking for individuals with good credit scores and then recruited them into the scheme by giving them an upfront payment for their participation and by presenting the scheme as an investment opportunity that required no down payment and would generate income through rental payments.

To obtain mortgages for the properties, Abaji and other co-conspirators prepared loan applications with false information about the straw buyers – including fake employment, income and assets, as well as fabricated W2s, pay stubs and bank statements. The mortgage applications also included false information about the terms of the transactions, such as concealing the large kickbacks from builders through false and misleading HUD-1 forms. As a result of the false statements in the fraudulent loan applications, mortgage lenders provided over $21 million in financing to purchase more than 100 properties.

Many of these loans went into default, and mortgage lenders lost more than $10 million after foreclosing on the properties. The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) and the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) purchased dozens of these loans on the secondary mortgage market and suffered losses of at least $1.3 million as a result of defaults and foreclosures on the properties.

Abaji was sentenced to 108 months in prison by United States District Judge Andrew Guilford and ordered to pay more than $10 million in restitution to the financial institutions that were victims of the fraud.

Several other defendants were charged in connection with the same scheme.

  • Abaji’s brother, Maher Obagi, 32, Huntington Beach, California who was sentenced in June 2018 to 78 months in prison and ordered to pay just over $10 million in restitution.
  • Mohamed Salah, 43, Mission Viejo, California who was sentenced in June 2018 to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay just over $7 million in restitution.
  • Ali Khatib, 53, Newport Coast, California pleaded guilty in a related case and is scheduled to be sentenced on September 10th;
  • Jacqueline Burchell, 57, Orange, California pleaded guilty in June 2013 and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 1st;
  • Wajieh Tbakhi, 53, who is currently a fugitive; and
  • Mohamed El Tahir, now deceased.

This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of the Inspector General; and IRS Criminal Investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kerry L. Quinn of the Major Frauds Section.

Assad Suleiman, 48, Irvine, California, was convicted and sentenced on Friday to eight years in state prison for operating an unlawful loan modification and money laundering scam that defrauded nearly $2.3 million from 387 homeowners.

Co-defendants Kevin Suleiman, 39, Irvine, California and Rosa A. Barraza, 45, Santa Ana, California were charged on October 3, 2017, with 36 felony counts of money laundering, 12 felony counts of grand theft, 10 felony counts of commercial burglary, and one felony count each of conspiracy to commit grand theft, money laundering, and unlawful loan modification, with sentencing enhancements for aggravated white collar crime over $500,000 and property damage over $1.3 million.

Assad Suleiman was convicted of, and Kevin Suleiman and Rosa Barraza are accused of the following:

Between May 2012 and July 2017, engaging in a sophisticated loan modification scheme and operating as Jefferson Legal Group, Los Angeles, California; Simplify Law Group, Irvine, California; Synergy Law Center, Anaheim, California; Wilshire Debt Advisors, Irvine California:

  • Operating without any lawyers involved, despite the misleading entity names
  • Charging advance fees for loan modifications and, if no loan modification was approved, ceasing communication with the victims after receiving an initial payment
  • If the defendant did get a loan modification approved for the victims, lying to the victims and telling them a trial payment and/or lump sum payment to their lender was required to cover taxes and various fraudulent fees
  • Directing the homeowner to make their trial payment directly to one of the four fraudulent entities for a three to four month period and falsely telling the homeowner that the trial payments would be forwarded to their lender
  • If the victims had any money still available, demanding additional payments to bring their impound accounts current
  • Failing to forward any payments to the mortgage lenders and laundering the money by depositing funds to the defendants’ Chase Bank and Bank of America accounts under their fraudulent businesses names
  • Defrauding a total of 387 victims with a loss of at least $2.28 million.

Suleiman pleaded guilty on July 13, 2018, to the following felony counts, (43) Money laundering, (10) Grand theft, (10) Second degree burglary and conspiracy to commit grand theft, money laundering, and unlawful loan modification.  Suleiman was ordered to pay $1,568,717 in restitution.

Kevin Suleiman is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on July 27, 2018, at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-55, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana, California. Barraza is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on July 30, 2018, at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-55, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana, California.

Barraza and Assad Suleiman were arrested on October 5, 2017, during a warranted search of their office. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) recovered $500,000 in cash. Kevin Suleiman was arrested by U.S. Marshals in San Diego on January 10, 2018.

It is against California law to charge an advance fee for a loan modification. Homeowners needing foreclosure relief are typically in financial distress and vulnerable to losing their family’s principal asset. In many instances, the conspirators directed the homeowners to stop making their mortgage payments, ostensibly to prove to the lenders that a loan modification was necessary and freeing up funds to pay the conspirators. Directing homeowners to breach their contracts in many instances would precipitate the commencement of foreclosure proceedings that would otherwise be unnecessary.

This fraud scheme was particularly effective and insidious because the lenders were never aware that trial payments and impound fees had been collected by the conspirators, and the homeowners believed the lies the conspirators made to them that their monies would be forwarded to their lenders. Many homeowners never discovered the fraud until their lenders commenced foreclosure against their homes. The conspirators deliberately chose entity names that implied attorneys were involved, and when complaints began to pile up or suspicious raised, the same conspirators would contact victims with new entity names, while the old entity simply disappeared in a financial “hit and run.”

The OCDA, along with the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, investigated this case.

Prosecutor: Deputy District Attorney George McFetridge, Major Fraud Unit

Dorothy Matsuba, 67, her daughter Jamie Matsuba, 33, and her husband, Thomas Matsuba, 67, all of Chatsworth, California, owners and/or managers of Los Angeles, California-area foreclosure rescue companies were sentenced to 240, 135, and 168 months in prison today for their roles in a foreclosure rescue scheme, respectively.

According to evidence presented at trial, from January 2005 to August 2014, Dorothy Matsuba, Jamie Matsuba, Thomas Matsuba and others engaged in a scheme to defraud financially distressed homeowners by offering to prevent foreclosure on their properties through short sales.  Instead, the conspirators rented out the properties to third parties, did not pay the mortgages on the properties, and submitted false and fraudulent documents to mortgage lenders and servicers to delay foreclosure.  The evidence further established that the conspirators obtained mortgages in the names of stolen identities.  The defendants also used additional tactics, including filing bankruptcy in the names of distressed homeowners without their knowledge and fabricating liens on the distressed properties, the evidence showed. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Dorothy+Matsuba

Two other defendants have been charged in this matter.  Defendant Jane Matsuba-Garcia, 42, Camarillo, California, previously pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.  Defendant Young Park Los Angeles, California, is a fugitive.  In addition, in related cases, Jason Hong, 36, Chatsworth, California and Ryu Goeku, 48,  Canoga Park, California, previously pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

All three Matsubas were sentenced by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner of the Central District of California.  Judge Klausner also ordered the defendants to serve three years of supervised release. Restitution and forfeiture will be decided at a hearing on Aug. 13.  All three defendants were remanded into custody. Dorothy Matsuba pleaded guilty on Dec. 4, 2017, to one count conspiracy to commit wire fraud, false statements to a federally insured bank or mortgage lending business, and identity theft, five counts of wire fraud, six counts of false statements to federally insured banks, and six counts of aggravated identity theft.  On Dec. 13, 2017, after a one-week trial, Jamie Matsuba and Thomas Matsuba were both convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements to federally insured banks, and committing identity theft and one count of making false statements to federally insured banks.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna for the Central District of California, Assistant Director in Charge Paul D. Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles Division, Acting Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Paul Conlon of the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), Special Agent in Charge R. Damon Rowe of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Los Angeles Field Office, and Sheriff Jim McDonnell of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department made the announcement.

This case was investigated by the FBI, FHFA-OIG, IRS-CI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  Trial Attorney Niall M. O’Donnell, Senior Litigation Counsel David A. Bybee and Trial Attorney Jennifer L. Farer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.  Senior Trial Attorney Nicholas Acker previously worked on the investigation.

Individuals who believe that they may be a victim in this case should visit the Fraud Section’s Victim Witness website for more information.

James Ignatius Diamond, 68, Riverside, California and Tricia Mae Gruber, 42, Riverside, California were named on July 12, 2018 in a thirty-count indictment for operating a fraudulent debt-elimination scheme to target distressed homeowners.

The indictment outlines how Diamond and his co-defendant Gruber and their co-schemers operated the scheme and highlights thirty instances of wire and mail fraud affecting a financial institution throughout the scheme.

Around 2010 and continuing to about September 2014, defendants Diamond and Gruber, and other co-schemers, knowingly participated in a scheme to defraud distressed homeowners, which also affected financial institutions to which they were indebted.

When targeting victim homeowners with at least one of his pitches, Diamond described a loophole in the Uniform Commercial Code regarding real estate ownership in which the homeowner could become the creditor and the financial institution creditor/lender would become the debtor, according to investigators. The programs purported to eliminate the victims debts altogether. After enrolling in the programs, Diamond and his co-schemers would collect from victims an advance-fee, followed by periodic program fees, and notary fees totaling hundreds of dollars. The average victim paid thousands of dollars, and some victims paid tens of thousands of dollars. Many victims lost their homes, were evicted from their homes, or suffered other adverse economic consequences. The investigation uncovered hundreds of victims with collective losses of more than $1.5 million.

According to the indictment:

Diamond owned and operated businesses with offices located in Riverside County, Californa including Transmitting Assets, Inc., Operation Save Haven, Citizen Beware, and Unlimited Logistics Corporation (collectively known as TAI/UCL). TAI/ULC purported to offer debt-elimination services to homeowners who were behind on their mortgage payments and other debtors who were behind on their debt payments, including car and student loans, in exchange for substantial fees, including an advance fee, periodic program fees, and notary fees.

Diamond, Gruber, and co-schemers induced victims to pay the TAI/ULC fees for services that defendants Diamond and Gruber falsely represented would eliminate the homeowners’ and debtors’ financial obligations to their financial institution creditors.

Defendants Diamond and Gruber recruited victim customers, many of whom did not speak English well or at all, through various means, including live seminars and presentations, as well as written marketing materials.

Defendants Diamond and Gruber and their co-schemers offered two primary methods of purported debt-elimination:

  1. The Diamond Home Claim Reclamation Method, also known as the Free & Clear Method, which targeted financially distressed homeowners; and
  2. The Electronic Funds Transfer Program, which targeted financially-distressed homeowners and victims with other debts including car and student loans.

The defendants and their co-schemers falsely told victim customers that they did not have to continue paying their mortgages after entering into the programs and should instead pay TAI/ULC. Defendant Diamond also falsely told victim customers that if they ceased making mortgage payments to their banks, the banks would be forced to settle with the victim customers.

At least as early as 2010, defendants Diamond and Gruber ignored correspondence they received from various financial institutions and government entities informing them that documents created by the defendants and their co-schemers, which they submitted or directed victim customers to submit to financial institutions (or other creditors) had no legal effect, that they would not discharge any outstanding debts owing, and/or that they were fraudulent.

When victim customers received similar correspondence from financial institutions and government entities and confronted defendants and their co-schemers with this correspondence or requested refunds, defendants Diamond and Gruber ignored them, claimed that the correspondence was part of the debt-elimination process, encouraged the victim customers to pay purported outstanding fees to TAI/ULC so that their debts would be successfully eliminated, or offered to enroll the victim customers in other services for additional fees.

After paying TAI/ULC for services, some victim customers received unlawful detainer notices, notices of trustee sale, and other foreclosure-related documents. Some victim customers lost their properties. When victim customers complained to defendants Diamond and Gruber about these foreclosure-related developments, defendants Diamond and Gruber would ignore them or offer to enroll the victim customers in other services for additional fees.

The defendants and their co-schemers did not comply with state laws and regulations that govern, and in some cases, prohibit the operation of advance-fee loan modification businesses.

Diamond Home Reclamation Method:

In order to participate in the scheme, the defendants and their co-schemers generally required victim customers to pay an advance fee ranging from $3,500 to $8,000 per property, plus additional fees per lien on the property, periodic program fees, and notary fees.

After victim customers paid an advance fee, the defendants and their co-schemers directed the victim customers to travel to the TAI/ULC office in Riverside, California, to provide TAI/ULC employees with information relating to the victim customers’ debt obligations. At the TAI/ULC office, defendants and their co-schemers directed the victim customers to sign various documents that purported to eliminate the victim customers’ debts when sent to financial institutions, including banks and mortgage companies, and government agencies, entities and officials (the Documents).

Defendant Gruber generally notarized the Documents and charged a fee for each document that she notarized, typically between $50 and $300 per document, which was well above the prevailing rate.

The defendants and their co-schemers provided some of the Documents to the victim customers and instructed them to mail the Documents to various entities. The defendants and their co-schemers also filed some of the Documents with county recorders’ offices for additional fees.

In furtherance of this part of the scheme, the defendants and their co-schemers made and caused others to make the following material false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises:

  • That victim customers who paid for the Diamond Home Reclamation Method would eliminate their mortgages entirely and own their residences free and clear when in truth and in fact, as defendants and their co-schemers then well knew, the Diamond Home Reclamation Method would not eliminate victim customers’ mortgages entirely or allow them to own their residences free and clear.
  • That the Diamond Home Reclamation Method had successfully eliminated debt obligations, when in truth and in fact, as the defendants and their co-schemers well knew, the method had not eliminated debt obligations.
  • That the Documents that the defendants and their co-schemers had the victim customers sign and send to financial institutions and government agencies would result in the elimination of the victim customers’ debts, when, in truth and in fact, as the defendants and their co-schemers then knew, the Documents would not eliminate any debt obligations and had no legal effect at all.
  • That victim customers were not legally obligated to continue to pay their mortgages, when in truth and fact, the DHRM did not relieve the victim customers of their obligations to pay their mortgages.
  • That correspondence received from various financial institutions stating that the Documents created by the defendants and their co-schemers had no legal effect, would not discharge outstanding debts owing, and/or were fraudulent actually were part of the debt-elimination process, when in reality, the letters were not part of a process that would eliminate any debt obligations.

The indictment alleges that the defendants knowingly concealed from victims the fact that the Documents had no legal effect and that their Diamond Home Reclamation Method had never succeeded in eliminating a customer’s mortgage obligation.

Diamond Electronic Fund Transfer (Diamond EFT):

In order to participate in the Diamond EFT Program, defendants Diamond and Gruber and their co-schemers generally required victim customers to pay a fee, which they calculated as a percentage, typically 13% of the amount of the debt to be discharged, plus additional program fees and notary fees. The victim customers were required to pay an advance fee, typically several thousand dollars, followed by monthly payments and notary fees. Defendant Diamond sometimes also recorded liens on the victim customers’ properties in the amount of the fee.

After victim customers paid the advance fee, defendants Diamond and Gruber and their co-schemers directed the victim customers to provide the TAI/ULC employees with information relating to the victim customers’ debt obligations.

After victim customers paid the advance fee, defendant Diamond prepared and directed to be prepared, among other documents, documents that appeared to be checks in the name of James I. Diamond, made payable to the victims’ financial institution creditors in the amounts of the balances owed on the victim customer debt obligations (the EFT Checks). The memoranda lines on the EFT Checks bore the words, FOR EFT ONLY FOR THE DISCHARGE OF DEBT, or similar words. Defendant Diamond and Gruber and their co-schemers then provided the EFT Checks to the victim customers and instructed the victim customers to mail the EFT Checks to their financial institution creditors and other entities as purported payments satisfying the outstanding balances owed by the victim customers.

Defendant Gruber generally notarized documents relating to the EFT process and charged a fee for each document that she notarized, typically between $50 and $300 per document, which was well above the prevailing market rate.

When victim customers advised defendants Diamond and Gruber that their financial institutions had rejected the EFT checks, defendant Diamond falsely told the victim customers that this was part of the debt-elimination process and that customer victims were required to continue making monthly payments to TAI/ULC in the amount of 13% of the amount of the debt obligation.

If a victim customer stopped paying the monthly payments, defendant Diamond would:

  • advise the victim customer that the debt-elimination process would not work until she/he had completed all payments;
  • threaten to foreclose on the victim customer’s property or other assets; and
  • threaten to assess late fees

In furtherance of this part of the scheme, defendants Diamond and Gruber and their co-schemers made and caused others to make the following material and false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises:

  • That victim customers who paid for the Diamond EFT Program would be able to discharge or entirely eliminate their debt obligations, including home mortgages, car loans, and student loans, when in truth and fact, as defendants and their co-schemers then well knew, the Diamond EFT Program would not discharge or entirely eliminate victim customers’ debt obligations.
  • That EFT Checks were valid, legal tender, drawn on open bank account, when in truth and in fact, as the defendants and their co-schemers then well knew, the EFT Checks were not valid, legal tender, and were not drawn on open bank accounts.
  • That EFT Checks would pay off the victim customers’ debts when in truth and fact, as defendants and their co-schemers then well knew, the EFT Checks would not pay off the victim customers’ debts.
  • That the financial institutions’ rejection of the EFT checks was part of the debt-elimination process, when in truth and in fact, as the defendants and their co-schemers well knew, the financial institutions’ rejection of the EFT Checks was not part of a process that would eliminate any debt obligations.
  • Also in furtherance of this part of the scheme, defendants Diamond and Gruber knowingly concealed the following material facts from the victim customers:
    • That the EFT Checks were not valid, legal tender and instead contained account numbers belonging to closed bank accounts.
    • That the EFT Checks had never succeeded in eliminating a customer’s debt obligations.

As a result of the fraudulent scheme, defendants Diamond and Gruber induced hundreds of distressed homeowners and other debtors to pay more than $1.5 million in fees to TAI/ULC.

Diamond was arrested Thursday at his residence without incident. Gruber, a notary public and office manager, will be summonsed to federal court at a future date.

Diamond appeared in federal court in Los Angeles Thursday afternoon for an initial appearance. If convicted of the charges in the indictment, Diamond and Gruber face a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in prison each.

Investigators believe there may be other victims of this scheme not yet identified. If you believe you may have been victimized in this scheme, or have information about someone who has, you are encouraged to contact your nearest FBI office. In Los Angeles, the FBI can be reached 24/7 at (310) 477-6565.

Nicola T. Hanna, the United States Attorney in Los Angeles, and Paul D. Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Los Angeles Division, Riverside Resident Agency, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Cassie D. Palmer of the Major Frauds Section.

An indictment merely contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at trial.

 

Angela Fawn Wallace, 57, West Hills, California, a former attorney, pleaded not guilty today to the charges, which include multiple counts each of identity theft, grand theft, forgery and procuring a false document for recording. Wallace has been charged with 72 felony counts for taking $2 million from elderly property owners and others in a real estate fraud scheme

From June 2014 through January 2017, Wallace allegedly befriended elderly victims or located properties where the owners were already deceased in order to get her name placed on the title to the properties.

The defendant is accused of using her legal expertise to ingratiate herself with the victims, said Deputy District Attorney Walter Mueller of the Real Estate Fraud Section, who is prosecuting the case.

The scheme targeted four properties in different areas of Los Angeles, California and affected about two dozen victims, including property owners, estates, trusts, investment companies, property management companies and notaries, Mueller said. Wallace allegedly either obtained loans secured by the properties or sold them to innocent purchasers, purportedly keeping virtually all of the proceeds for herself, the prosecutor said.

In one case, she allegedly had her name placed on the title, then rented several of the units and kept the rental proceeds for herself instead of giving them to the estate of the deceased owner.

The defendant has several prior felony convictions, including grand theft in 2003, 2007 and 2013; forgery in 2003; and recording false documents in 2007.

She also denied special allegations that include taking of more than $200,000 and prior convictions.

Wallace faces a maximum possible sentence of 40 years and four months in state prison if convicted as charged. Bail was set at $2.32 million.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for August 1, 2018 in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. Case BA468922 was filed July 2, 2018.

Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office made the announcement.

The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Bureau of Investigation.