Archives For Loan Modification Fraud

Sergio Lorenzo Rodriguez, 47, Laguna Niguel, California, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with a fraudulent foreclosure rescue scheme that took in at least $5 million in prohibited advance fees from thousands of financially distressed homeowners.

According to the Complaint, the Indictment,[1] and statements made in court, and publicly available documents:

From approximately mid-2015 through August 2020, Rodriguez and a co-conspirator (the Defendants) owned and/or managed a series of mortgage modification companies through which they perpetrated a scheme to defraud and attempt to defraud financially distressed consumers who were facing or were at imminent risk of foreclosure through deceptive marketing practices. Those companies included American Home Servicing Center, National Advocacy Center, National Advocacy Group, and Capital Home Advocacy Center (collectively, the “Companies”).  The Defendants tricked desperate homeowners into paying thousands of dollars each in prohibited advance fees through various misrepresentations, including: falsely claiming that the homeowners had been pre-approved by their lender or servicer for a mortgage modification; misrepresenting prohibited advance fees as closing costs or other non-prohibited costs; fraudulently claiming that the Companies achieved success rates of 95 percent or higher for mortgage modifications; and making empty promises of a no-risk money back guarantee.  As a result of their intentional misrepresentations, and misrepresentations that they encouraged their subordinates to make, the Defendants induced thousands of homeowners to pay, in the aggregate, millions of dollars in prohibited advance fees to the Companies, including a large number of consumers who were ultimately denied mortgage modifications or who received modification offers that were less favorable than they had been led to expect at the time they paid advance fees.

Rodriguez pled guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn.

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Daniel B. Brubaker, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”) made the announcement today.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said:  “As he admitted today, for years, Sergio Lorenzo Rodriguez took advantage of desperate homeowners who were facing foreclosure and eviction to collect from them, in the aggregate, millions of dollars in advance fees based on promises that Rodriguez knew he could not, or would not, keep.  He exploited the financial vulnerability of his victims and is now being held accountable for his crime.”

Rodriguez pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.

The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

In February 2018, the Federal Trade Commission brought a civil lawsuit against the Defendants, among others, in federal court in Santa Ana, California.  That civil action resulted first in a temporary restraining order and then a permanent injunction barring the Defendants from marketing and selling all debt relief products and services.  As alleged in the Indictment, the Defendants flouted those judicial orders by having a relative create another mortgage modification company named 1st Premier Asset Solutions, which the Defendants operated using aliases and some of the same deceptive practices.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding and persistent investigative work of the United States Postal Inspection Service and thanked the Federal Trade Commission for their assistance.

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Lai is in charge of the prosecution.

[1] As to Rodriguez’s co-defendant Eva Christine Rodriguez, the entirety of the text of the Indictment, and the descriptions of the Indictment set forth herein constitute only allegations and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Patrick Joseph Soria, 35, West Hollywood, California was sentenced today to 152 months in federal prison for orchestrating a real estate fraud scheme that victimized more than 2,000 homeowners, involved fraudulent filings that affected the title to properties across the country and caused more than $7 million in losses.

From January 2015 to June 2018, Soria stole money from homeowners and would-be home buyers through a two-pronged scheme.

Firstly, Soria hijacked title to properties through fraudulent title filings done at county recorders’ offices around the country. He faked the filings to make it appear that he owned the properties, and then “sold” the properties to victims who thought they were buying the homes from the true owner. In fact, Soria never owned the homes, and he instead used the victims’ “purchase” money for his own personal expenses, including escort services, stays at luxury hotels, and Bentley and Lamborghini car rentals.

In the second part of the scheme, Soria convinced homeowners that he could help them with their mortgages, either by assisting them with a loan modification or by taking over their mortgage from their lender, with the promised result, either way, of reducing their mortgage payments. He told them that he had achieved success in this area in the past, and he convinced them that he was trying to help them, often befriending them to gain their trust and give them hope.

After gaining the victims’ trust, Soria convinced homeowners to stop paying their real lender and to start paying him. Through yet more fraudulent filings, Soria deceived his victims into believing he had taken over their mortgages. He also falsely lulled victims into doing nothing to protect themselves when they started receiving foreclosure and eviction notices. Many of the homeowners targeted in the scheme lost their homes.

As part of the fraud, Soria used company names such as HBSC US and Deutsche Mellon National Asset LLC, designed to trick homeowners into thinking that these companies were real. He also took advantage of the complex mix of lenders, trustees, beneficiaries, and servicers in the mortgage market, and the assignments of mortgage loans between entities, to confuse homeowners and to make it seem as if he did in fact own the properties and mortgages.

More than 2,000 individuals were victimized through this scheme. Soria admitted in court documents that losses totaled more than $7.6 million. In addition to causing losses to individual homeowners, the fraud scheme also victimized numerous lenders who held mortgages on, or other interests in, properties targeted in the scheme.

The targeted properties were located nationwide, including in Texas, New York, Nevada, and in the California cities of Vernon, Beverly Hills, Santa Ana, Yorba Linda, Anaheim and elsewhere.

A restitution hearing is scheduled for October 25, 2021. Soria pleaded guilty on March 2, 2021 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of contempt of court.

Soria was sentenced by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who called Soria “a skillful conman who created a very sophisticated scheme.” Judge Fischer also stated, “This is not the largest case I have presided over in terms of dollars, but it is the most brazen and heartless.”

In a related matter, Soria committed numerous acts of contempt of court in a related civil case before Judge Fischer, Nationstar Mortgage LLC v. Patrick Soria, et al., 18-cv-03041-DSF-RAO (C.D. Cal.), including willfully spending funds subject to an asset freeze. The contempt resulted in his incarceration in 2018, and criminal charges filed by the Court in 2019 by way of an Order to Show Cause.

This matter was investigated by the FBI and the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, with assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department; the Beverly Hills Police Department; the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office; and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Assistant United States Attorney Kerry L. Quinn of the Major Frauds Section prosecuted this case.