Archives For Foreclosure Rescue

Zalathiel Aguila, 46, Vallejo, California has been sentenced to four years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud.

According to court documents, between September 2004 and February 2008, Aguila and co-conspirators Sergio Roman Barrientos and Omar Anabo operated Capital Access LLC, in Vallejo, a company that preyed on homeowners nearing foreclosure. The defendants convinced homeowners to sign over the title to their homes to Capital Access and then spent any equity those homeowners still had, which was then used for operational expenses of the scheme and personal expenses of Aguila and his co-conspirators.

The defendants also used straw buyers to obtain home loans under false pretenses and defraud federally insured financial institutions out of millions of dollars. 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.

Aguila remains out of custody pending his surrendering for service of his sentence on October 25, 2019. Barrientos was sentenced on November 2, 2018, to 14 years in prison for his role in the scheme, and Anabo (charged elsewhere) is scheduled to be sentenced on August 16, 2019.

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

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Yelovich prosecuted the case.

Phillip Yoder, 41, Ligonier, Indiana, was sentenced on his guilty pleas to wire fraud, bank fraud, mail fraud and bankruptcy fraud.

According to his plea agreement, beginning in or about 2014 and continuing until in or about July 2015, Yoder and others, sometimes working through the entity, KOH Enterprises, LLC, defrauded persons via a “Foreclosure Rescue Scheme.” As part of the scheme to defraud, Yoder and others monitored foreclosure notices of properties, and would then approach distressed homeowners and convince them to transfer title of the property in exchange for false promises of being able to avoid further foreclosure obligations. They falsely represented to these homeowners that they would handle their mortgage arrearages and the foreclosure process.  Because of these false representations, the homeowners vacated the property and transferred their interest in the property through a Quitclaim deed to business entities. Those entities then furthered the scheme by recording the Quitclaim at the local Recorder’s Office. However, the Quitclaim deed did not extinguish the homeowner’s outstanding mortgage debt.  Yoder and others would use the mail to send a fraudulent document, entitled an “International Promissory Note”, purporting to satisfy the outstanding mortgage debt to the financial institution holding the mortgage.  Simultaneously, Yoder and others would cause a fraudulent “Satisfaction of Mortgage” to be filed with the county recorder’s office in an attempt to discharge the mortgage.  They would then convey another Quitclaim deed to an investor or purchaser of the properties, even though the property was still encumbered.   The total loss to investors and insurers was $1,466,136.20.

With regard to the bankruptcy fraud, which resulted from a referral by the U.S. Trustee for Region 10, according to his plea agreement, on or about February 24, 2016, Yoder knowingly and fraudulently made a material false declaration, certificate and verification under the penalty of perjury in his bankruptcy proceeding.  He claimed as an asset a “Billion dollar gold bond” when he knew that the purported bond was fraudulent and worthless.  In his bankruptcy proceeding, Yoder claim $792,592.46 in debts.

Yoder was sentenced to serve 87 months each on the mail fraud, bank fraud, and mail fraud counts, and 60 months on the bankruptcy fraud count, all to run concurrently.   Yoder also was sentenced to two years of supervised release and ordered to pay a total of $581,386.04 in restitution.

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Kirsch.

Creating a scheme that enriches the defendant while defrauding banks, insurers and average home owners, jeopardizes our financial system,” said U.S. Attorney Kirsch.  “My Office in coordination with all our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively prosecute these type of cases.

Everyone has the right to expect honest representation from those they do business with.  Targeting homeowners with this type of fraudulent activity when they are already dealing with financial hardship is not only illegal but a violation of trust and won’t be tolerated by the FBI,” said Grant Mendenhall, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis Division.  “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to investigate and pursue those who try to line their pockets at the expense of others and hold them accountable.”

HUD Special Agent in Charge Geary stated, “At such a critical time for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, with programs that are vital to the well-being of so many in our communities, it is critical that those resources are completely dedicated to those in need. The HUD Office of Inspector General is committed to partnering with Federal prosecutors and fellow law enforcement to aggressively pursue those engaged in activities that harm HUD’s Single Family housing programs.

Today’s sentence sends a strong message to those who abuse the bankruptcy system,” stated Nancy J. Gargula, United States Trustee for Indiana and Southern and Central Illinois (Region 10).  “Providing false documents such as fictitious “bonds” to the United States Bankruptcy Court undermines the integrity of the system and will not be tolerated.  We appreciate the commitment of U.S. Attorney Kirsch and our law enforcement partners to holding those who abuse the bankruptcy system accountable.  We welcome information that will help detect fraud and abuse in the bankruptcy system and we encourage citizens to report suspected bankruptcy fraud through our Internet hotline at USTP.Bankruptcy.Fraud@usdoj.gov.”   The United States Trustee Program is the component of the Justice Department that protects the integrity of the bankruptcy system by overseeing case administration and litigating to enforce the bankruptcy laws.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General in collaboration with the Northern Indiana Bankruptcy Fraud Working Group coordinated by the U.S. Trustee.  The case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney John M. Maciejczyk.

 

Michelle Sylethia Jordan, a/k/a Michelle Harris and Michelle Welsh, 49; and her husband, Michael Paul Anthony Welsh, a/k/a Michael A. Welsh and Michael Paul S. Welsh, 45, both of Laurel, Maryland, were sentenced yesterday to 57 months and 46 months in federal prison, respectively, each followed by three years of supervise release, on conspiracy and wire fraud charges in connection with a foreclosure prevention fraud scheme.

According to the evidence presented at their eight-day trial, Jordan was chief executive officer and director of MJ Loan Auditor Group, LLC (MJLAG), a limited liability company registered and doing business in Maryland.  Welsh was president and chief executive officer of MJLAG.  Jackson was the owner and manager of CJ Maxx Group LLC, a limited liability company doing business in Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia.

Trial evidence proved that from August 2012 until February 2017, Jordan and Welsh falsely told victim homeowners that, for a fee, MJLAG could help these homeowners modify their mortgage loans and prevent foreclosure of their homes.  Jordan and Welsh falsely represented that MJLAG could help the homeowners get “free and clear” title to their homes, with no debt or liens against the property, and that MJLAG could obtain money from the homeowners’ lenders, typically by suing the lenders.  Jordan and Welsh told homeowners that they needed to purchase one or more “audits” of the homeowners’ mortgage loans in order to uncover fraud and alleged illegal acts committed by the lenders, and that these “audits” could be used as evidence in lawsuits against the lenders and in negotiating for a loan modification.

Witnesses testified that as part of the scheme, Jordan and Welsh had homeowners sign a “contract fee agreement” setting out what fees would be charged for the “audit.”  The contract fee agreement contained the seal of the National Association of Mortgage Underwriters (NAMU), even though the defendants and their companies had no current affiliation with NAMU.  Jordan advised clients to submit baseless complaints about their lender to state and federal agencies, file frivolous lawsuits in local courts, and to stop paying their mortgages.  Jordan further advised MJLAG clients whose homes already were in foreclosure proceedings to file for bankruptcy in order to delay the foreclosure proceedings and as part of the process to prevent foreclosure of the clients’ homes.  Jordan assisted MJLAG clients in filing for bankruptcy, by preparing bankruptcy petitions and related documents and court filings.

The evidence proved that Jordan and Welsh paid Jackson to prepare fraudulent documents purporting to be “Forensic Audit Reports” and “Real Estate Securitization Audits” relating to loans for properties owned by MJLAG clients.  The victim homeowners paid money to MJLAG with the expectation of receiving assistance with modifying their mortgage loans and preventing foreclosure of their homes.

U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus sentenced co-conspirator, Carrol Antonio Jackson, a/k/a Jack Jackson, 48, of Hinesville, Georgia, to time served, followed by nine months of home detention as part of three years of supervised release.  Finally, Judge Titus ordered that each defendant pay restitution of $491,036.87.  A federal jury convicted the three co-conspirators on June 20, 2018.  http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=jordan After the verdict was announced, Judge Titus ordered that Jordan and Welsh be detained pending sentencing and they were immediately taken into custody.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Rene Febles of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG); Special Agent in Charge Bertrand Nelson of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG); Postal Inspector in Charge Peter Rendina of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Washington Division; Chief Henry P. Stawinski of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; Sheriff Steve Sikes of the Liberty County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office; and Vernon M. Keenan, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FHFA-OIG, HUD-OIG, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County Police Departments, Liberty County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for their work in the investigation, and recognized the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulations for its assistance.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristi N. O’Malley and Nicolas A. Mitchell, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth Boison, who prosecuted the case.

Mark Demetri Stein, 38, Carrollton, Texas, the owner of Real Estate Solutions, and the final defendant in a high-profile north Texas “foreclosure rescue” case has been sentenced for his role in the scheme, which swindled nearly a quarter of a million dollars from at least 70 homeowners facing foreclosure.

According to documents filed in the case, from February 2012 to January 2013, Stein and three co-conspirators used third parties to contact vulnerable homeowners, offering them an opportunity to get out of their present home loans and receive new, cheaper loans with lower interest and reduced monthly payments. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Mark+Demetri+Stein

They lied to desperate homeowners, telling them “investors” were standing by, ready to purchase homeowners’ loans from their original lenders at a greatly reduced price through a “short sale” process, and suggesting homeowners had the legal authority to transfer their deeds to a foreclosure rescue company. Then, although they knew they would not legally own the property, Stein and his co-defendants assured homeowners a foreclosure rescue company could “sell” the property back to the homeowner with a new loan.

There were no investors.  The defendants simply pocketed funds collected from these defrauded homeowners.

They issued fraudulent new “loans” requiring hefty down payments, demanded the homeowners sign fraudulent documents, and directed homeowners to start making all future loan payments to them.

As they continued to collect these so-called “mortgage payments,” they instructed homeowners to ignore notices of late- and non-payment from other lenders. In order to further conceal their criminal conduct, they even advised several homeowners file bankruptcy in order to forestall foreclosure.

Stein who pleaded guilty in April to one count of mail fraud  was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay $215,138 in restitution to homeowner victims.

The three other defendants, Christina Renee Caveny, 37, Richard Bruce Stevens, 53, and Bruce Kevin Hawkins, 54, also pleaded guilty and were sentenced for felony offenses stemming from the scheme. (Caveny was sentenced to 15 months in prison in November 2017. The following month, Hawkins was sentenced to 41 months.  Late last month, Stevens was sentenced to 41 months.)

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox of the Northern District of Texas.

The case was brought as part of the Northern District of Texas’ Bankruptcy Fraud Initiative. Since May 2013, the initiative has prompted a significant increase in the number of felony prosecutions of bankruptcy-related crimes in north Texas. A total of 27 defendants each prosecuted due to criminal referrals from the United States Trustee’s Office  have been charged and convicted.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Dallas Division conducted the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jarvis prosecuted 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.

 

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.

Sergio Roman Barrientos, 64, Poway, California pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud.

According to court documents, from about September 2004 through February 2008, Barrientos and co-conspirators Zalathiel Aguila and Omar Anabo operated an entity named Capital Access LLC, in Vallejo, California. They 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 distressed homeowners’ properties was then used for operational expenses of the scheme and personal expenses of Barrientos and his coconspirators. 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.

Co-defendant Zalathiel Aguila remains out of custody awaiting trial. Omar Anabo, charged elsewhere, is set for sentencing on April 27.

Barrientos is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. on April 6, 2018. Barrientos faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott. The case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew M. Yelovich and Todd A. Pickles are prosecuting the case.

Jamie Matsuba, 33, Chatsworth, California and her father, Thomas Matsuba, 67, Chatsworth, California, managers of foreclosure rescue companies, were both convicted today for their roles in a foreclosure rescue scheme.

They were convicted after a one-week trial of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements to federally insured banks and committing identity theft. In addition, both defendants were convicted of one count of making false statements to federally insured banks.

According to evidence presented at trial, from January 2005 to August 2014, 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. In addition, the defendants 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.

Sentencing has been scheduled for May 14, 2018 at 10 a.m., before U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner, who presided over the trial.

Three other defendants have been charged in this matter. Defendant Dorothy Matsuba, 66, Chatsworth, California, who is the mother of Jamie Matsuba and wife of Thomas Matsuba, and her daughter, Jane Matsuba-Garcia, 41, Camarillo, California, previously pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Defendant Young Park, Los Angeles, California, is a fugitive. In addition, in related cases, Jason Hong, 36, Chatsworth, California and Ryu Goeku, 47, Canoga Park, California, previously pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Jamie+Matsuba

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Director in Charge Paul D. Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles Division, Special Agent in Charge R. Damon Rowe of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Los Angeles Field Office, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Rene Febles of the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), and Sheriff Jim McDonnell of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department made the announcement.

This case was investigated by the FBI, IRS-CI, FHFA-OIG 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

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

Bruce Kevin Hawkins, 52, Desoto, Texas, was sentenced to serve 41 months in prison and pay $219,109 in restitution for his role in a foreclosure rescue scheme that exploited vulnerable homeowners facing foreclosure.

Hawkins pleaded guilty in June 2017 to one count of mail fraud.  He has been in custody since the time of his arrest in January 2017.

A federal grand jury in Dallas returned an indictment in December 2016 charging Hawkins and three others with felony offenses stemming from a “foreclosure rescue scheme” they ran from approximately February 2012 through January 2013.  Richard Bruce Stevens, 51, San Antonio, Texas, and Christina Renee Caveny, 37, Dallas, Texas, also pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later this year.  Mark Demetri Stein, 36, Carrollton, Texas, is awaiting trial.

According to documents filed in the case, Stein operated Real Estate Solutions, Stevens used Texas Real Estate Services, and Hawkins formed ERealty Mortgage Group, LLC, as foreclosure rescue companies.  The conspirators used third parties to contact homeowners and offer them an opportunity to get out of their present home loans and receive a new home loan with a reduced interest payment and reduced monthly payment.  Hawkins and other conspirators falsely represented to homeowners that they had “investors” standing by who were ready to quickly purchase the homeowner’s present loan from the lender holding the current mortgage.  They also falsely represented that they would use investors to purchase the homeowner’s loan from the original lender at a greatly reduced price through a “short sale” process.

Furthermore, Hawkins and other conspirators falsely represented to the homeowners that the homeowners had the legal authority to transfer their homeowner’s deed to the defendants.

As part of the scheme, the conspirators fraudulently required homeowners to start making all future loan payments to them based on fraudulent so-called “loans,” and they also told homeowners to ignore late payment notices sent by lenders.  As part of the scheme, the conspirators conducted a fraudulent “closing” for each homeowner where they caused the homeowner to pay them a large down payment on the new “loan,” and they also had the homeowner sign fraudulent documents, such as a promissory note, deed of trust, special warranty deed, and/or a so-called “land trust.”

Further, according to plea documents, the conspirators falsely represented to homeowners that the conspirators could “sell” their property back to the homeowner with a new loan, when the conspirators well knew they did not legally own the property.  The conspirators also told homeowners to ignore notices of nonpayment from their present lender as they continued to unlawfully collect monthly so called “mortgage payments” from homeowners.  In fact, conspirators instructed several homeowners to file for bankruptcy but to not follow up with the bankruptcy process as an additional means to delay foreclosure and conceal the conspirators’ criminal conduct.  Conspirators concealed that all down payment and monthly mortgage payments fraudulently collected from homeowners was spent for their own personal benefit.

The defendants recruited at least 70 distressed and vulnerable homeowners who were facing the imminent threat of foreclosure on their homes and fraudulently collected a total of at least $242,000 from them.

Hawkins was sentenced before U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey and the sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas

The Dallas FBI investigated the case.  Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jarvis prosecuted.

Richard Bruce Stevens, 52, San Antonio, Texas, appeared in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez and pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud,

Stevens faces a maximum statutory penalty of twenty years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Restitution could also be ordered. Stevens will remain on bond pending sentencing, which is set for October 30, 2017.

A federal grand jury in Dallas returned an indictment in December 2016 charging Stevens and three others with felony offenses stemming from a “foreclosure rescue scheme” they ran from approximately February 2012 through January 2013. Mark Demetri Stein, 36, Carrollton, Texas, is scheduled for trial August 28, 2017. Bruce Kevin Hawkins, 52, Desoto, Texas, and Christina Renee Caveny, 37, Dallas, Texas, both pleaded guilty to their role in the scheme and are awaiting sentencing.

According to documents filed in the case, Stein operated Real Estate Solutions, Stevens used Texas Real Estate Services, and Hawkins formed ERealty Mortgage Group, LLC, as foreclosure rescue companies. The conspirators used third parties to contact homeowners and offer them an opportunity to get out of their present home loans and receive a new home loan with a reduced interest payment and reduced monthly payment. Stevens and other conspirators falsely represented to homeowners that they had “investors” standing by who were ready to quickly purchase the homeowner’s present loan from the lender holding the current mortgage. They also falsely represented that they would use investors to purchase the homeowner’s loan from the original lender at a greatly reduced price through a “short sale” process.

Furthermore, Stevens and other conspirators falsely represented to the homeowners that the homeowners had the legal authority to transfer their homeowner’s deed to the defendants.

As part of the scheme, the conspirators fraudulently required homeowners to start making all future loan payments to them based on fraudulent so-called “loans,” and they also told homeowners to ignore late payment notices sent by lenders. As part of the scheme, the conspirators conducted a fraudulent “closing” for each homeowner where they caused the homeowner to pay them a large down payment on the new “loan,” and they also had the homeowner sign fraudulent documents, such as a promissory note, deed of trust, special warranty deed, and/or a so-called “land trust.”

Further, according to plea documents, the conspirators falsely represented to homeowners that the conspirators could “sell” their property back to the homeowner with a new loan, when the conspirators well knew they did not legally own the property. The conspirators also told homeowners to ignore notices of nonpayment from their present lender as they continued to unlawfully collect monthly so called “mortgage payments” from homeowners. In fact, conspirators instructed several homeowners to file for bankruptcy but to not follow up with the bankruptcy process as an additional means to delay foreclosure and conceal the conspirators’ criminal conduct. Conspirators concealed that all down payment and monthly mortgage payments fraudulently collected from homeowners was spent for their own personal benefit.

The defendants recruited at least 70 distressed and vulnerable homeowners who were facing the imminent threat of foreclosure on their homes and fraudulently collected a total of at least $242,000 from them.

This case is one of several felony prosecutions of bankruptcy-related crimes prosecuted as a result of the Bankruptcy Fraud Initiative in the Northern District of Texas. These prosecutions are identified following a careful review of many criminal referrals sent by the Office of the United States Trustee in Dallas to the United States Attorneys Office. Since May 2013, a total of 26 defendants have been charged as part of that initiative. To date, 23 defendants have been convicted, one resulted in a mistrial, and two are pending trial.

The plea was announced by U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas. The Dallas FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jarvis is in charge of the prosecution.