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Bradford Barneys, 51, Odenton, Maryland, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford to 30 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiring with Timothy W. Burke in a long-running fraud scheme that targeted distressed homeowners throughout Connecticut. Barneys was an attorney licensed to practice in Connecticut and has an office in Bridgeport.

According to court documents and statements made in court, between approximately 2010 and November 2015, Timothy W. Burke, formerly of Easton, engaged in a scheme to defraud individuals, mortgage lenders and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by falsely representing to homeowners who were in, or facing, foreclosure on their homes that he would purchase their homes and pay off their mortgages. The distressed homeowners agreed to sign various documents that Burke presented to them on the understanding that, by signing the documents, they would be able to walk away from their homes without the burdens of their mortgage or other costs associated with home ownership. Burke also told homeowners that the process of negotiating with the lenders can take time and that, in the meantime, to ignore any notices regarding foreclosure. After he gained control of these houses, Burke rented out the properties to tenants by advertising the properties on craigslist.com and other means and falsely representing to tenants that Burke owned the property.

Burke or one of his agents then collected rent from tenants, and Burke used the funds for his own benefit. He also failed to negotiate with the homeowners’ mortgage lender or pay expenses associated with the home, including the homeowner’s mortgages and property taxes, and he failed to pay any rental income he was collecting to the homeowners. Many of the properties Burke purportedly purchased were ultimately foreclosed upon by the mortgage lender.

Burke undertook extensive efforts to disguise his true identity, and hide his criminal past, from his victims through the use of multiple aliases and business entities, and to conceal the sources of and expenditures from his criminal proceeds.

Between approximately 2011 to at least 2014, Barneys participated in dozens of meetings with Burke and with homeowners at Barneys’ law offices in Bridgeport. At the meetings, Burke represented to homeowners that he would purchase their properties and presented to the homeowners quitclaim deeds, management agreements, indemnification agreements, and third party authorizations.

Barneys was paid more than $72,000 in fees and other monies for his participation in the fraud.

At some point after BARNEYS began representing Burke in these meetings with homeowners, BARNEYS knew that Burke had no intention of buying the properties and paying the outstanding mortgages on the properties. Nevertheless, BARNEYS continued to participate in these meetings and represented that these transactions were legitimate. When questioned by homeowners about the status of their sales, BARNEYS would assure them that their sales to Burke or one of his companies were progressing as Burke promised. BARNEYS also knew that, once Burke obtained the properties from the homeowners, he would rent them out to tenants.

BARNEYS also represented Burke and his companies in eviction proceedings against tenants.

The investigation further revealed that BARNEYS engaged in separate fraud scheme similar to the scheme that Burke engineered. BARNEYS assisted two Maryland residents in purchasing a commercial property located on Boston Avenue in Bridgeport. BARNEYS then acted as a purported landlord for the property, executed long-term lease agreements with at least two tenants, and collected tens of thousands of dollars of rent without the actual owners’ knowledge or authorization and kept the funds for his own use.

On February 21, 2017, BARNEYS pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire a fraud.

BARNEYS’ law license was temporarily suspended by state authorities after he pleaded guilty, with additional proceedings scheduled to determine whether further discipline is warranted. Judge Shea ordered BARNEYS not to apply for reinstatement of his law license, and not to engage in any business related to real estate, while he is on supervised release.

On January 24, 2017, Burke pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion. On April 28, 2017, he was sentenced to 108 months of imprisonment.

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced the sentence. The matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, with the critical assistance of the Middletown, Plainville, Easton and Coventry Police Departments, the Connecticut State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David T. Huang and Sarah P. Karwan.

Timothy W. Burke, also known as “Bill Burke,” “William Burke,” “Kerry Saunders,” “Pat Riley,” “Jim Caldwell,” “Jim Saunders,” “Tom Morrisey,” “Jimmy,” “Phil Burke,” “Phil,” “Burt,” “James Burke,” and “M. Soler,” 65, formerly of Easton, Connecticut, was sentencedby U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford to 108 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for defrauding distressed homeowners, and tax evasion.

According to court documents and statements made in court, between approximately 2010 and November 2015, Burke engaged in a scheme to defraud individuals, mortgage lenders and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by falsely representing to homeowners who were in, or facing, foreclosure on their homes that he would purchase their homes and pay off their mortgages. The distressed homeowners agreed to sign various documents, including quitclaim deeds, indemnification agreements, management agreements and third party authorization letters, which Burke presented to them on the understanding that, by signing the documents, they would be able to walk away from their homes without the burdens of their mortgage or other costs associated with home ownership. Burke also told homeowners that the process of negotiating with the lenders can take time and that, in the meantime, to ignore any notices regarding foreclosure. After he gained control of these houses, Burke rented out the properties to tenants by advertising the properties on craigslist.com and other means and falsely representing to tenants that Burke owned the property.

Burke or one of his agents then collected rent from tenants, in person, and Burke used the funds for his own benefit. Burke failed to negotiate with the homeowners’ mortgage lender or pay expenses associated with the home, including the homeowner’s mortgages and property taxes, and he failed to pay any rental income he was collecting to the homeowners. Many of the properties Burke purportedly purchased were ultimately foreclosed upon by the mortgage lender.

Burke undertook extensive efforts to disguise his true identity, and hide his criminal past, from his victims through the use of multiple aliases and business entities, and to conceal the sources of and expenditures from his criminal proceeds. Burke has been associated with multiple entities, including Quality Asset Management Services, LLC; Birmingham Investments, LLC; the Birmingham Group of Companies; Saunders Associates; New Haven Investments; Realty Partners Group; Preston Associates II; Landlord Maintenance Services, LLC; Turnkey Construction Services LLC; The Complete Handyman, LLC; and Woodbridge Associates.

Dozens of distressed homeowners, property renters and mortgage lenders were victimized during this scheme. Judge Shea will determine the amount that Burke will be ordered to pay in restitution after further court proceedings.

In addition, between 1994 and 2012, Burke evaded paying approximately $403,726 in federal taxes. He now owes the Internal Revenue Service more than $1 million in back taxes, interest and penalties.

Burke has been detained since his arrest on November 19, 2015. On January 24, 2017, he pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion.

In 2002, Burke was indicted by a federal grand jury in New Jersey on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, and equity skimming. Burke subsequently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit both equity skimming and mail fraud, and he was sentenced to 60 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Burke was released from federal custody in approximately August 2007 and began his federal supervised release at that time. One of the special conditions of Burke’s supervised release was that he refrain from employment in the real estate business or mortgage industry. Based on his motion for early termination of his supervised release, the New Jersey federal court terminated his supervised release approximately one year early in August 2009.

Bradford Barneys, a Bridgeport-based attorney who assisted Burke in this scheme, previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. In pleading guilty, Barneys admitted that participated in numerous meetings with Burke and homeowners during which Burke represented to homeowners that he would purchase their properties. Barneys represented that these were legitimate transactions ever though he knew that Burke had no intention of buying the properties and paying the outstanding mortgages on the properties, and that Burke was renting the properties to tenants. Barneys also represented Burke and his companies in eviction proceedings against tenants.

Barneys awaits sentencing.

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced the sentence. This matter has been investigated by Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with the critical assistance of the Middletown, Plainville, Easton and Coventry Police Departments, the Connecticut State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David T. Huang and Sarah P. Karwan.

Jessie C. Litvak, 42, Boca Raton, Florida, was sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for engaging in fraudulent residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) trades. Litvak was also ordered to pay a $2 million fine.

On January 27, 2017, a jury found Litvak guilty of one count of securities fraud. According to the evidence introduced during the trial, in response to the 2008 financial collapse, the U.S. Department of Treasury introduced the Legacy Securities Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP), and used billions of dollars of bailout money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to restart the trading markets for many troubled securities, including certain kinds of RMBS. The program created nine PPIP funds, and more than 100 firms applied to manage the funds.

Litvak was a senior trader and managing director at Jefferies & Co, Inc. (“Jefferies”), a global securities and investment banking firm headquartered in New York. Jefferies also had a trading floor in Stamford, Connecticut, where Litvak and other members of its Mortgage and Asset-Backed Securities trading group worked.

The jury found that Litvak engaged in a scheme to defraud. As a broker-dealer, only Litvak – not the bond seller or buyer – knew the selling and asking prices of the parties. Litvak exploited this information by misrepresenting to his PPIP fund victim the price Jefferies paid for a RMBS bond in order to increase Jefferies’ profit on the trade.

Litvak has been released on bond since his arrest on January 28, 2013.

On March 7, 2014, Litvak was convicted after trial of 10 counts of securities fraud, one count of TARP fraud and three counts of making false statements to the government. Chief Judge Hall subsequently sentenced him to 24 months of imprisonment and a fine of $1.7 million. Litvak appealed his conviction and, on December 8, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the judgment of conviction as to the TARP fraud and making false statement charges, and remanded the matter for a new trial on the securities fraud charges.

The investigation of this matter revealed that members of Jefferies’ management in the fixed income division became aware that Jefferies employees were making misrepresentations to customers and did nothing to stop it. Jefferies has cooperated with the federal criminal investigation and paid a total penalty of $25 million as part of a non-prosecution agreement with the government. The penalty included up to $11 million in restitution to victims and up to a $4,200,402 penalty to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Jefferies also addressed deficiencies in the compliance and ethics practices and policies of its Mortgage and Asset-Backed Securities Trading group. These measures included Jefferies’ agreement to retain an Independent Compliance Consultant to conduct a review of Jefferies’ policies and procedures for detecting and preventing fraud in connection with the purchase or sale of RMBS.

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), and Patricia M. Ferrick, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, made the announcement. The sentence was imposed by Chief U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in New Haven, Connecticut.

This sentence sends an unequivocal message that fraud in the residential mortgage backed securities trading market will be met with serious punishment,” said U.S. Attorney Daly. “Jesse Litvak took advantage of his victims through his repeated and brazen lies, and as the Court correctly found, Litvak’s lies led to more than $6 million in unearned profits for his employer. Simply put, Litvak lied to investors to cheat them and make more money for himself. This has been a demanding and lengthy prosecution. I thank our prosecutors and the SIGTARP and FBI agents for their tireless professionalism throughout this case. Our criminal investigations of individuals and institutions involved in fraudulent RMBS trading activities remain active and ongoing.”

Today former Jefferies trader Jesse Litvak was sentenced to federal prison for lying to customers about the prices of residential mortgage backed securities to criminally enrich his firm’s profit and his bonus based on the profit,” said Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General for TARP. “This fraudulent pursuit of profit victimized customers including a fund trading with taxpayer dollars – part of a TARP program that unlocked frozen credit markets during the crisis. Despite making more than $15 million in four years, Litvak was motivated by greed to lie in 76 trades with 35 victims. Now Litvak has faced justice for his crimes. Since his arrest by SIGTARP special agents, broker dealers have changed their sale practices to prevent this type of fraud. SIGTARP commends U.S. Attorney Daly and prosecutors Jonathan Francis, Heather Cherry and William Nardini and for fighting crime in the residential mortgage backed securities market.”

The prison term imposed today serves as another example that justice prevails over greed, deceit and criminal behavior,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Ferrick.

This matter was investigated by SIGTARP and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan Francis, Heather Cherry and William Nardini.

Urmila Sri Thakur, also known as Urmila Buddhu-Thakur and Indro Buddhu-Thakur, 72, Wethersfield, Connecticut was charged in a nine-count grand jury indictment with conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering offenses related to a fraudulent debt elimination scheme.

According to court documents, from 2009 to June 2012, Thakur, her former husband, Deowraj “Deo” Buddhu and their daughter, Sunita Buddhu, sold a debt elimination “program” to vulnerable individuals through various businesses, including Paradise Consulting Service, Hema, Inc., and Secured Redemption. In exchange for substantial fees, Deo Buddhu told victims about a little-known government fund that could be used to pay off their mortgages and other debts. In fact, no such fund exists. Buddhu instructed his victims to stop making payments on their mortgages, credit cards and other debts, and to stop paying their property taxes. He also provided his victims with fictitious promissory notes, which he called “bonds,” as well as other frivolous documentation, and advised his victims to use them to pay their debts.

The indictment alleges that Thakur participated in the scheme by signing documents provided to victims as a witness, taking money from victims in exchange for their participation in the purported program, and managing payroll operations for the various businesses used for the purpose of selling and attempting to sell the program to the victims.

The indictment further alleges that, on June 12, 2012, the day after Deo Buddhu’s arrest, Thakur withdrew $75,000 from a certificate of deposit account that contained funds from the scheme. Thakur also obtained several cashier’s checks, including one for $50,000 made payable to Thakur, which she thereafter negotiated using accounts in the name of SDK SYS Solutions and TRK Consulting Services.

The indictment was returned on February 15, 2017. Thakur appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez in Hartford, Connecticut, entered a plea of not guilty to the charges, and was released on a $250,000 bond.

The indictment charges Thakur with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and seven counts of money laundering. If convicted, she faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years for the conspiracy count, 20 years for the mail fraud count and 10 years on each count of money laundering.

Deo Buddhu and Sunita Buddhu were previously convicted in Hartford federal court.

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut announced the indictment. The matter is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John T. Pierpont, Jr. and Liam Brennan.

Timothy W. Burke, also known as “Bill Burke,” “William Burke,” “Kerry Saunders,” “Pat Riley,” “Jim Caldwell,” “Jim Saunders,” “Tom Morrisey,” “Jimmy,” “Phil Burke,” “Phil,” “Burt,” “James Burke,” and “M. Soler,” 65, formerly of Easton, Connecticut, plead guilty before U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford, Connecticut, to fraud and tax evasion offenses stemming from a long-running fraud scheme that targeted distressed homeowners.

According to court documents and statements made in court, between approximately 2010 and November 2015, Burke engaged in a scheme to defraud individuals, mortgage lenders and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by falsely representing to homeowners who were in, or facing, foreclosure on their homes that he would purchase their homes and pay off their mortgages. The distressed homeowners agreed to sign various documents, including quitclaim deeds, indemnification agreements, management agreements and third party authorization letters, which Burke presented to them on the understanding that, by signing the documents, they would be able to walk away from their homes without the burdens of their mortgage or other costs associated with home ownership. Burke also told homeowners that the process of negotiating with the lenders can take time and that, in the meantime, to ignore any notices regarding foreclosure. After he gained control of these houses, Burke rented out the properties to tenants by advertising the properties on craigslist.com and other means and falsely representing to tenants that Burke owned the property.

Burke or one of his agents then collected rent from tenants, in person, and Burke used the funds for his own benefit. Burke failed to negotiate with the homeowners’ mortgage lender or pay expenses associated with the home, including the homeowner’s mortgages and property taxes, and he failed to pay any rental income he was collecting to the homeowners. Many of the properties Burke purportedly purchased were ultimately foreclosed upon by the mortgage lender.

Burke undertook extensive efforts to disguise his true identity, and hide his criminal past, from his victims through the use of multiple aliases and business entities, and to conceal the sources of and expenditures from his criminal proceeds. Burke has been associated with multiple entities, including Quality Asset Management Services, LLC; Birmingham Investments, LLC; the Birmingham Group of Companies; Saunders Associates; New Haven Investments; Realty Partners Group; Preston Associates II; Landlord Maintenance Services, LLC; Turnkey Construction Services LLC; The Complete Handyman, LLC; and Woodbridge Associates.

In addition, between 1994 and 2012, Burke evaded paying approximately $403,726 in federal taxes.

In 2002, Burke was indicted by a federal grand jury in New Jersey on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, and equity skimming. Burke subsequently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit both equity skimming and mail fraud, and he was sentenced to 60 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Burke was released from federal custody in approximately August 2007 and began his federal supervised release at that time. One of the special conditions of Burke’s supervised release was that he refrain from employment in the real estate business or mortgage industry. Based on his motion for early termination of his supervised release, the New Jersey federal court terminated his supervised release approximately one year early in August 2009.

Burke pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, and one count of tax evasion, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years. Judge Shea scheduled sentencing for April 18, 2017.

Burke has been detained since his arrest on November 19, 2015.

The guilty plea was announced by Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut. The matter is being investigated by Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with the critical assistance of the Middletown, Plainville, Easton and Coventry Police Departments, the Connecticut State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David T. Huang and Sarah P. Karwan.

Michelle Lefaoseu, also known as “Michelle Bennett,” “Michelle Lee” and “Michelle Page,” 42, Huntington Beach, California, was sentenced to 12 months and one day of imprisonment, followed by one year of supervised release, for participating in an extensive mortgage loan modification scheme.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Lefaoseu worked at a California-based company that falsely purported to provide home mortgage loan modifications and other consumer debt relief services to numerous homeowners in Connecticut and across the United States in exchange for upfront fees. The company did business, at various times, as “First Choice Financial Group, Inc.,” “First Choice Financial,” “First Choice Debt,” “Legal Modification Firm,” “National Freedom Group,” “Home Care Alliance Group,” “Home Protection Firm,” “Hardship Center,” “Network Solutions Center, Inc.,” “Premiere Financial Center,” “Premiere Financial,” “Rescue Firm,” “International Research Group LLC,” “Hardship Solutions,” “American Loan Center,” “Loan Retention Firm,” “Clear Vision Financial,” “Green Tree Financial Group,” “Green Tree Financial,” “Enigma Fund, Inc.,” “National Aid Group,” “Southern Chapman Group LLC,” “Save Point Financial,” “Best Rate Financial Solutions,” “Best Rate Financial Solution,” “Best Rate Financial,” “Best Rate Finance Group,” and “Nation Star Financial.”

Aria Maleki presided over the entire structure of this scheme, and Lefaoseu was head of the processing department. Acting as representatives of the above-named entities, members of Maleki’s sales team cold-called homeowners and offered to provide mortgage loan modification services to those who were having difficulty repaying their home mortgage loans. Homeowners were charged fees that typically ranged from approximately $2,500 to $4,300 for the services. To induce homeowners to pay these fees, scheme participants falsely represented that the homeowners already had been approved for mortgage loan modifications on extremely favorable terms; the mortgage loan modifications already had been negotiated with the homeowners’ lenders; the homeowners qualified for and would receive financial assistance under various government mortgage relief programs, including the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the Home Affordable Modification Program; and if for some reason the mortgage loan modifications fell through, the homeowners would be entitled to a full refund of their fees.

In fact, the homeowners had not been preapproved for mortgage loan modifications with lenders, mortgage loan modifications had not been negotiated with the lenders, homeowners had not qualified for and did not receive any financial assistance through government mortgage relief programs, and homeowners did not receive a refund of their fees upon request. Few homeowners ever received any type of mortgage loan modification through the defendants’ company, and few homeowners received refunds of their fees.

Participants in the scheme used pseudonyms and periodically changed their business and operating names to evade detection. They also directed homeowners to mail their checks to addresses and mail boxes that Maleki and others had set up in states other than California.

After members of the sales team fraudulently induced homeowners to pay for the company’s services, the homeowners’ files were transferred to Lefaoseu and the junior processors working under her supervision. Lefaoseu was fully aware of her co-workers’ lies and, during her contact with victims, repeatedly helped to cover up those lies.

As a result of this scheme, more than 1,000 homeowners suffered losses totaling more than $3 million.

On January 21, 2016, a grand jury in New Haven returned an indictment charging Maleki, Lefaoseu and five other California residents with conspiracy and fraud offenses related to this scheme. The defendants were arrested on January 26.

On July 11, 2016, Lefaoseu pleaded guilty to one count of misprision of a felony.

On March 22, 2016, Maleki pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and, on July 18, 2016, he was sentenced to 112 months of imprisonment. He also forfeited approximately $350,000 that investigators seized from various bank accounts, approximately $362,000 sized from a Bitcoin account, a $100,000 cashier’s check, and a 2013 Ferrari 458 Italia.

The other five defendants, all of whom were members of Maleki’s sales team, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 18 months to 58 months.

All seven defendants have been ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,390,496.59.

U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill in Bridgeport, Connecticut, sentenced Lefaoseu and Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut made the announcement. The matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, and Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Avi M.

Kowit Yuktanon, also known as “Eric Cannon” and “Aaron Brock,” 32, Huntington Beach, California, and Cuong Huy King, also known as “James Nolan” and “Jimmy“, 32, Westminster, California, have each been sentenced by U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to 18 months of imprisonment, followed by one year of supervised release, for participating in an extensive mortgage loan modification scheme.  Judge Underhill also ordered both defendants to pay restitution in the amount of $2,390,496.59.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Yuktanon and King worked at a California-based company that falsely purported to provide home mortgage loan modifications and other consumer debt relief services to numerous homeowners in Connecticut and across the United States in exchange for upfront fees.  The company did business, at various times, as “First Choice Financial Group, Inc.,”  “First Choice Financial,” “First Choice Debt,” “Legal Modification Firm,” “National Freedom Group,” “Home Care Alliance Group,” “Home Protection Firm,” “Hardship Center,” “Network Solutions Center, Inc.,” “Premiere Financial Center,” “Premiere Financial,” “Rescue Firm,” “International Research Group LLC,” “Hardship Solutions,” “American Loan Center,” “Loan Retention Firm,” “Clear Vision Financial,” “Green Tree Financial Group,” “Green Tree Financial,” “Enigma Fund, Inc.,” “National Aid Group,” “Southern Chapman Group LLC,” “Save Point Financial,” “Best Rate Financial Solutions,” “Best Rate Financial Solution,” “Best Rate Financial,” “Best Rate Finance Group,” and “Nation Star Financial.”

Aria Maleki presided over the entire structure of this scheme, and Yuktanon and King were junior members of the sales team.  Acting as representatives of the above-named entities, Yuktanon, King and others cold-called homeowners and offered to provide mortgage loan modification services to those who were having difficulty repaying their home mortgage loans.  The defendants charged homeowners fees that typically ranged from approximately $2,500 to $4,300 for their services.  To induce homeowners to pay these fees, the defendants falsely represented that the homeowners already had been approved for mortgage loan modifications on extremely favorable terms; the mortgage loan modifications already had been negotiated with the homeowners’ lenders; the homeowners qualified for and would receive financial assistance under various government mortgage relief programs, including the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the Home Affordable Modification Program; and if for some reason the mortgage loan modifications fell through, the homeowners would be entitled to a full refund of their fees.

In fact, the homeowners had not been preapproved for mortgage loan modifications with lenders, mortgage loan modifications had not been negotiated with the lenders, homeowners had not qualified for and did not receive any financial assistance through government mortgage relief programs, and homeowners did not receive a refund of their fees upon request.  Few homeowners ever received any type of mortgage loan modification through the defendants’ company, and few homeowners received refunds of their fees.

Participants in the scheme used pseudonyms and periodically changed their business and operating names to evade detection.  The defendants also directed homeowners to mail their checks to addresses and mail boxes that Maleki and others had set up in states other than California.

As a result of this scheme, more than 1,000 homeowners suffered losses totaling more than $3 million.

On January 21, 2016, a grand jury in New Haven returned an indictment charging Maleki, Yuktanon, King and four other California residents with conspiracy and fraud offenses related to this scheme.  The defendants were arrested on January 26.

YUKATANON and KING each pleaded guilty to one count of misprision of a felony.

Maleki pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and, on July 18, 2016, he was sentenced to 112 months of imprisonment.  He also forfeited approximately $350,000 that investigators seized from various bank accounts, approximately $362,000 sized from a Bitcoin account, a $100,000 cashier’s check, and a 2013 Ferrari 458 Italia.

The sentence was announced by Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut.  The matter was been investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, and Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Avi M. Perry.

John Vescera, 60, Dana Point, California, was to 12 months and one day of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for false advertising and misusing a government seal in connection with the provision of mortgage modification services. On May 3, 2016, Vescera pleaded guilty to one count of misuse of a government seal and one count of false advertising.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Vescera was the President of First One Lending Corporation (“First One”) in San Juan Capistrano, California.  During the peak of the national mortgage crisis, Vescera and First One offered home mortgage loan modification assistance to homeowners across the United States, including in Connecticut, who were having difficulty repaying their mortgage loans.

From approximately February 2010 until approximately February 2012, Vescera and First One solicited clients through television advertisements and infomercials produced by National Media Connection of New London, Connecticut.  These advertisements touted the mortgage modification services of an entity known as the National Mortgage Help Center (“NMHC”).

Matthew Goldreich, of East Lyme, Connecticut, had incorporated NMHC approximately two months after the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it would partner with financial institutions to reduce struggling homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments through a program called the Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”).  HAMP consisted of a number of incentives to encourage homeowners and financial institutions to modify existing loans on owner-occupied primary residences in order to help keep these properties out of foreclosure.

NMHC advertisements misrepresented NMHC as being affiliated with or regulated by the U.S. government and falsely stated that NMHC “help[ed] thousands of homeowners every day.”  When viewers called the advertised telephone number, they were connected not to NMHC, which operated only as a front and did not provide mortgage modification services for any homeowners, but to clients of National Media Connection, including First One.

Vescera and First One used NMHC’s name and logo in First One’s promotional materials, application package and other documents.  Vescera also instructed First One employees to introduce themselves to prospective clients as “with the National Mortgage Help Center.”

First One also misrepresented its status with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”).  First One employees were instructed to inform homeowners that “[w]e’re a HUD approved lender and we represent the government loan modification programs.”  In addition, certain of First One’s forms claimed that the company provided “HUD . . . Housing Counseling assistance” and bore HUD’s seal.  In truth, First One had no affiliation with the government mortgage loan assistance programs and was not licensed or approved by HUD for housing counseling or home mortgage loan modification services.

Through this scheme, 302 victims lost a total of $374,622.  Many of these victims were previously compensated after Vescera and First One paid approximately $1.5 million to the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America in March 2013 to resolve a federal lawsuit in the Central District of California.  As part of this criminal case, Vescera paid restitution of $30,320 to 24 of the victims who were not identified at the time the federal lawsuit was settled.

Goldreich previously pleaded guilty to one count of false advertising.  On November 5, 2015, he was sentenced to two years of probation, including three months of home confinement.  He also was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine and $75,794 in restitution.

Vescera was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in New Haven, Connecticut.  Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut announced the sentence. The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, and Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Avi Perry and Liam Brennan.

Mehdi Moarefian, also known as “Michael Miller,” 37, Irvine, California, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to 52 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for participating in an extensive mortgage loan modification scheme. Moarefian also was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,390,496.59.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Aria Maleki, Moarefian and others jointly operated a series of California-based companies that falsely purported to provide home mortgage loan modifications and other consumer debt relief services to numerous homeowners in Connecticut and across the United States in exchange for upfront fees. The defendants did business, at various times, as “First Choice Financial Group, Inc.,” “First Choice Financial,” “First Choice Debt,” “Legal Modification Firm,” “National Freedom Group,” “Home Care Alliance Group,” “Home Protection Firm,” “Hardship Center,” “Network Solutions Center, Inc.,” “Premiere Financial Center,” “Premiere Financial,” “Rescue Firm,” “International Research Group LLC,” “Hardship Solutions,” “American Loan Center,” “Loan Retention Firm,” “Clear Vision Financial,” “Green Tree Financial Group,” “Green Tree Financial,” “Enigma Fund, Inc.,” “National Aid Group,” “Southern Chapman Group LLC,” “Save Point Financial,” “Best Rate Financial Solutions,” “Best Rate Financial Solution,” “Best Rate Financial,” “Best Rate Finance Group,” “Nation Star Financial,” and “Nation Star Fin Group.”

Maleki presided over the entire structure of this scheme, and Moarefian was a senior member of the sales team. Acting as representatives of the above-named entities, Moarefian and other co-conspirators cold-called homeowners and offered to provide mortgage loan modification services to those who were having difficulty repaying their home mortgage loans. The defendants charged homeowners fees that typically ranged from approximately $2,500 to $4,300 for their services. To induce homeowners to pay these fees, the defendants falsely represented that the homeowners already had been approved for mortgage loan modifications on extremely favorable terms; the mortgage loan modifications already had been negotiated with the homeowners’ lenders; the homeowners qualified for and would receive financial assistance under various government mortgage relief programs, including the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the Home Affordable Modification Program; and if for some reason the mortgage loan modifications fell through, the homeowners would be entitled to a full refund of their fees.

In fact, the homeowners had not been preapproved for mortgage loan modifications with lenders, mortgage loan modifications had not been negotiated with the lenders, homeowners had not qualified for and did not receive any financial assistance through government mortgage relief programs, and homeowners did not receive a refund of their fees upon request. Few homeowners ever received any type of mortgage loan modification through the defendants’ companies, and few homeowners received refunds of their fees.

Participants in the scheme used pseudonyms and periodically changed their business and operating names to evade detection. The defendants also directed homeowners to mail their checks to addresses and mail boxes that the defendants and their co-conspirators had set up in states other than California.

As a result of this scheme, more than 1,000 homeowners suffered losses totaling more than $3 million.

The investigation revealed that the top tier of salesmen, including Moarefian, were paid based on commission and typically earned 45 percent to 50 percent of the final fee, after $750 to $1,000 was taken by Maleki for administrative costs.

On January 21, 2016, a grand jury in New Haven, Connecticut returned an indictment charging Maleki, Moarefian and five other California residents with conspiracy and fraud offenses related to this scheme. The defendants were arrested on January 26, 2016.

On February 17, 2016, Moarefian pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Maleki pleaded guilty to the same charge and, on July 18, 2016, was sentenced to 112 months of imprisonment. He also forfeited approximately $350,000 that investigators seized from various bank accounts, approximately $362,000 sized from a Bitcoin account, a $100,000 cashier’s check, and a 2013 Ferrari 458 Italia.

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, made the announcement. The matter was by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, and Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Avi M. Perry.

Serj Geutssoyan, also known as “Anthony Kirk,” 34, Santa Ana, California was sentenced to 52 months of imprisonment, and Daniel Shiau, also known as “Scott Decker,” 30, Irvine, California, was sentenced to 58 months of imprisonment for their role in an extensive mortgage loan modification scheme. Geutssoyan and Shiau also were ordered to serve three years of supervised release and pay restitution in the amount of $2,390,496.59.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Aria Maleki, Geutssoyan, Shiau and others jointly operated a series of California-based companies that falsely purported to provide home mortgage loan modifications and other consumer debt relief services to numerous homeowners in Connecticut and across the United States in exchange for upfront fees. The defendants did business, at various times, as “First Choice Financial Group, Inc.,” “First Choice Financial,” “First Choice Debt,” “Legal Modification Firm,” “National Freedom Group,” “Home Care Alliance Group,” “Home Protection Firm,” “Hardship Center,” “Network Solutions Center, Inc.,” “Premiere Financial Center,” “Premiere Financial,” “Rescue Firm,” “International Research Group LLC,” “Hardship Solutions,” “American Loan Center,” “Loan Retention Firm,” “Clear Vision Financial,” “Green Tree Financial Group,” “Green Tree Financial,” “Enigma Fund, Inc.,” “National Aid Group,” “Southern Chapman Group LLC,” “Save Point Financial,” “Best Rate Financial Solutions,” “Best Rate Financial Solution,” “Best Rate Financial,” “Best Rate Finance Group,” “Nation Star Financial,” and “Nation Star Fin Group.”

Maleki presided over the entire structure of this scheme, and Geutssoyan and Shiau were senior members of the sales team. Acting as representatives of the above-named entities, Geutssoyan, Shiau and other co-conspirators cold-called homeowners and offered to provide mortgage loan modification services to those who were having difficulty repaying their home mortgage loans. The defendants charged homeowners fees that typically ranged from approximately $2,500 to $4,300 for their services. To induce homeowners to pay these fees, the defendants falsely represented that the homeowners already had been approved for mortgage loan modifications on extremely favorable terms; the mortgage loan modifications already had been negotiated with the homeowners’ lenders; the homeowners qualified for and would receive financial assistance under various government mortgage relief programs, including the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the Home Affordable Modification Program; and if for some reason the mortgage loan modifications fell through, the homeowners would be entitled to a full refund of their fees.

In fact, the homeowners had not been preapproved for mortgage loan modifications with lenders, mortgage loan modifications had not been negotiated with the lenders, homeowners had not qualified for and did not receive any financial assistance through government mortgage relief programs, and homeowners did not receive a refund of their fees upon request. Few homeowners ever received any type of mortgage loan modification through the defendants’ companies, and few homeowners received refunds of their fees.

Participants in the scheme used pseudonyms and periodically changed their business and operating names to evade detection. The defendants also directed homeowners to mail their checks to addresses and mail boxes that the defendants and their co-conspirators had set up in states other than California.

As a result of this scheme, more than 1,000 homeowners suffered losses totaling more than $3 million.

The investigation revealed that the top tier of salesmen, including Geutssoyan and Shiau, were paid based on commission and typically earned 45 percent to 50 percent of the final fee, after $750 to $1,000 was taken by Maleki for administrative costs.

On January 21, 2016, a grand jury in New Haven returned an indictment charging Maleki, Geutssoyan, Shiau and four other California residents with conspiracy and fraud offenses related to this scheme. The defendants were arrested on January 26, 2016.

Maleki, Geutssoyan and Shiau each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

On July 18, 2016, Maleki was sentenced to 112 months of imprisonment. He also forfeited approximately $350,000 that investigators seized from various bank accounts, approximately $362,000 sized from a Bitcoin account, a $100,000 cashier’s check, and a 2013 Ferrari 458 Italia.

The other four defendants also have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.

The announcement was made by Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut. The sentencing judge was U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Avi M. Perry. The matter is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, and Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office.