California Real Estate Fraud Report

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Archive for the 'Foreclosure fraud' Category

Time runs out for Roseville couple that targeted Hispanic families in loan modification fraud

November 13th, 2015 at 11:14am

A federal judge sentenced Martin Wayne Flanders, 51, to six years and five months in prison after Flanders pleaded guilty to committing mail fraud. His wife, Ligia Sandoval Spafford (Sandoval), 48, also pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in March 2016.

According to the office of U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner of the Eastern District of California, the couple ran a company called European Debt Resolution, Inc., that targeted Hispanic families in the Bay Area and Sacramento, charging them illegal advance fees for loan modifications, mortgage loan audits, credit repair, debt relief and bankruptcy filings. They advertised on Spanish language radio, television and magazines in order to find their clients and did not perform the services they promised.

Read the original article in the Roseville and Granite Bay Press Tribune.


Costa Mesa woman sentenced to prison for running bogus foreclosure rescue business

October 9th, 2015 at 11:48am

Thirty-one-year-old Najia Jalan of Costa Mesa has been sentenced to 70 months in federal prison and ordered to pay approximately $236,000 in restitution for falsely promising she could help distressed homeowners save their homes. She had previously pleaded guilty to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.

Jalan is not a licensed attorney but according to federal prosecutors she used company names such as the National Legal Help Center, United National Mortgage Protection Center, OC NonProfit, American Consumer Law Center to fool her victims to they would pay her fees for services that were never provided. Her fees ran from $1,000 to $10,000.

Jalan and a co-defendant were sued in 2012 by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Read the original article in the OC Register.

Four defendants in Rancho Cucamonga sentenced for loan modification scam

October 9th, 2015 at 11:26am

The following is a press release from SIGTARP:

WASHINGTON, DC – Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), and Eileen M. Decker, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California announced yesterday that four defendants who worked for a Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. based business that offered bogus loan modifications were sentenced to federal prison, with one of the leaders of the scheme being ordered to spend 20 years in custody.

“Mortgage modifications under TARP’s HAMP [Home Affordable Modification Program] are free, a homeowner does not need an attorney to apply, and no one can guarantee that an application will be approved in advance, but criminals, like these four from 21st Century, prey on homeowners with the promise that with an attorney working on their case for a fee, they are guaranteed a lower mortgage payment or their money back,” said Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP). “Struggling homeowners, including school teachers and retirees, thought that 21st Century was part of the government ‘Obama Plan’ to save their homes by a company that had a 98% success rate, but instead they became victims to a disgusting fraud scheme built entirely on lies, and in the end many lost their houses. The monies they lost never went to their mortgage payment, but instead went into the pockets of criminals. These non-attorneys said whatever was needed to get homeowners to part with their money, and told homeowners not to talk to their lenders to cover their tracks. Most homeowners’ files sat untouched for months and many were closed with no work. Some work included false statements sent to lenders, including banks that received TARP. George, DiRoberto, Buck and Padilla have time in federal prison to dwell on the devastation they caused to innocent people. SIGTARP stands united with our prosecutor partners to stop all TARP-bailout related crime.”

The defendants were convicted of federal fraud charges for their roles in a telemarketing operation known under a series of names – including 21st Century Legal Services, Inc. – that bilked more than 4,000 homeowners across the nation, many of whom lost their homes to foreclosure.

Christopher George, 45, a co-owner of 21st Century, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison; Crystal Buck, 40, a sales “closer” who persuaded numerous victims to pay fees to 21st Century received a sentence of five years; Albert DiRoberto, 62, handled sales and marketing – which included making a commercial for 21st Century and preparing talking points to respond to negative publicity – was sentenced to five years in prison; and Yadira Padilla, 38, who handled client complaints and refund requests, and who posted bogus reviews of the company on the internet – was sentenced to four years in prison.

George, Buck and DiRoberto were sentenced after being found guilty by a federal jury in June 2015 on various fraud charges. Padilla pleaded guilty in 2013.

In addition to the prison term, a California judge ordered George to pay $7,065,117 in restitution to victims of the scam. Buck, DiRoberto and Padilla were ordered to return to court next month for restitution hearings.

A total of 11 defendants linked to 21st Century have been convicted of federal fraud charges as a result of an investigation conducted by SIGTARP with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS Criminal Investigation division, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General.

During a 15-month period that began in the middle of 2008, Andrea Ramirez, 47, who previously plead guilty to fraud charges and is scheduled to be sentenced November 15 – operated 21st Century, which defrauded financially distressed homeowners by making false promises and guarantees regarding 21st Century’s ability to negotiate loan modifications for homeowners. Employees of 21st Century made numerous misrepresentations to victims during the course of the scheme, including falsely telling victims that 21st Century was operating a loan modification program sponsored by the United States Government. Victims were generally instructed to stop communicating with their mortgage lenders and to cease making their mortgage payments.

In addition to being a co-owner of 21st Century, Christopher George acted as a sales manager, and he ran his own sales office there for several months. George instructed 21st Century employees to make misrepresentations to distressed homeowners, including guaranteeing that 21st Century would obtain loan modifications and telling homeowners that payments made to 21st Century would go toward homeowners’ mortgages.

21st Century employees contacted distressed homeowners through cold calls, newspaper ads and mailings, and the company controlled websites that advertised loan modification services. Once they contacted the distressed homeowners, 21st Century employees often falsely told clients that the company was operating through a federal government program, that they would be able to obtain new mortgages with specific interest rates and reduced payments, and that attorneys would negotiate loan modifications with their lenders. 21st Century employees regularly instructed financially distressed homeowners to cease making mortgage payments to their lenders and to cut off all contact with their lenders because they were being represented by 21st Century. On some occasions, 21st Century employees told homeowners that 21st Century was using the fees paid by the homeowner to make mortgage payments, when Ramirez, George and their co-defendants simply were pocketing the homeowners’ money.

In addition to Ramirez and the four sentenced yesterday, six other California-based defendants previously pleaded guilty. They are:

Michael Bruce Bates, of Moreno Valley, who is scheduled to be sentenced on October 19;

Michael Lewis Parker, of Pomona, who is scheduled to be sentenced on November 19;

Catalina Deleon, of Glendora, who is scheduled to be sentenced on December 14;

Hamid Reza Shalviri, of Montebello, who is scheduled to be sentenced on December 7;

Mindy Sue Holt, of San Bernardino, who is scheduled to be sentenced on October 26; and

Iris Melissa Pelayo, of Upland, who has been sentenced to four years in federal prison.

This prosecution was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which was established to wage an aggressive and coordinated effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. SIGTARP is a member of the task force and co-chairs the Rescue Fraud Working Group. To learn more about the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, please visit


The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program investigates fraud, waste, and abuse in connection with TARP. To date, SIGTARP investigations have yielded more than 200 convictions and resulted in the recovery of over $1.5 billion to the Government.

To report suspected illicit activity involving TARP, dial the SIGTARP Hotline: 1-877-SIG-2009 (1-877-744- 2009).

To receive alerts about quarterly reports, new audits, and media releases issued by SIGTARP, sign up at Follow SIGTARP on Twitter @SIGTARP.

New York AG Schneiderman settles with attorneys, mortgage broker in mortgage rescue fraud case

September 22nd, 2015 at 9:06am

Note: I’m sure thousands of Californians are wondering why Attorney General Kamala Harris has not shown the same desire to prosecute mortgage fraud as other states’ AGs. See

The following is a press release from the Office of the Attorney General for the State of New York:

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that he had reached settlement agreements with a disbarred attorney, an attorney, and a mortgage broker, who along with others allegedly operated a mortgage foreclosure rescue scam on Long Island that robbed 14 Long Island homeowners out of their homes’ deeds and equity. The mortgage foreclosure rescue scam involved multiple alleged partners: Empire Property Solutions and its principals, John Rutigliano and Kenneth Kiefer, located in Medford and Bethpage, NY; Zornberg & Hirsch law firm and its married principals, disbarred attorney Barry Zornberg and Nanci Hirsch, located in Hauppauge, NY; H&Z Abstract, a title company owned by Hirsch, located in Hauppauge, NY; Cory Covert, an attorney licensed to practice in New York, located in Hauppauge, NY; and mortgage broker Leonie Neufville (d/b/a Neufville Mortgage, located in Baldwin, NY).

Under the settlements, Barry Zornberg agreed to pay $340,000; Cory Covert agreed to pay $67,500.00; and Leonie Neufville agreed to pay $10,000.00 and accept a five-year ban on acting as a broker. The Attorney General has received a default judgment against Rutigliano and Kiefer, which will be converted into a money judgment. All of these funds will be used to compensate victims of the “sale-leaseback” fraud, which was perpetrated at the height of the housing crash on Long Island.

“This shameful scam re-victimized families already suffering from the collapse of the housing market,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office has the resources to connect families in danger of foreclosure with qualified housing counselors and lawyers. We’ve already helped more than 50,000 families across the state, but our work will not end until we’ve guaranteed that every family in need can get the help they deserve.”

Under this mortgage rescue scam, Empire Property Solutions advertised in local papers, offering services to help families save their homes from foreclosure by refinancing their mortgages and repairing their credit scores. The company’s principals, Rutigliano and Kiefer, encouraged homeowners to turn over the titles to them through “sale-leaseback” agreements. Homeowners were told they could stay in the properties, pay rent, build up their credit, and then, after a year, that title in the home would revert back to them. But the Attorney General’s investigation found that Rutigliano and Kiefer failed to make good on their promises to use the homeowners’ payments to pay down their mortgages. In the end, the homeowners faced foreclosure and eviction.

The attorneys represented buyers, sellers, and banks at various closings of these sale-leaseback transactions, which took place at the office of Zornberg & Hirsch. But the attorneys allegedly failed to represent the interests of the homeowners, and were instead integral to inducing them to enter into the fraudulent transactions with Empire Property Solutions. As alleged, the scam also relied on the participation of a mortgage broker, Leonie Neufville, who prepared loan applications that were integral to the effort to fraudulently obtain new mortgages.

After filing a civil complaint, Attorney General Schneiderman reached multiple settlements that will return money to the victims of this fraudulent mortgage rescue scheme.

The settlement with Zornberg, Nanci Hirsch, H&Z Abstact, and Zornberg & Hirsch law firm requires Zornberg to pay a total of $340,000. The settlement with the other attorney, Cory Covert, requires him to pay $67,500. The settlement with the mortgage broker, Leonie Neufville, bars her from practicing in the real estate industry for five years and requires her to pay $10,000.

Attorney General Schneiderman has also received a default judgment against Rutigliano and Kiefer, the principals of Empire Principal Solutions. Since Rutigliano has passed away, his estate is in probate, and the Attorney General is working to convert the default judgment against Rutigliano and Kiefer into a money judgment.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is working with several of the victims to return their deeds to their rightful ownership. OAG is also actively helping another family purchase a new home with the restitution they will receive from the settlements.

One of the homeowners who will get her deed back is Rosalie Thomas, a licensed nurse practitioner from Elmont, NY. After receiving a foreclosure notice in 2006, Thomas called Empire Property Solutions for help. Empire Property Solutions claimed Thomas could avoid foreclosure by signing onto their payment plan, but she still received a foreclosure notice a year later after spending tens of thousands of dollars.

“This whole ordeal has been very scary and stressful,” said Rosalie Thomas. “My youngest son was born in the house that Empire Property Solutions tried to take away from me. It’s the only home he’s ever known. I’m looking forward to finally getting the deed back and finally putting this behind me.”

Ronald Lambre and Marie DiManche, Haitian immigrants who live in Medford, NY, are working with OAG to purchase a new home with money from the settlements. After seeing an ad in the newspaper, Ms. Dimanche, a certified nursing assistant, called Empire Property Solutions and set up a payment plan that was initially half of what she and her husband were paying on their mortgage. After a year, Empire Property Solutions tripled the monthly payments and threatened to evict Lambre and DiManche if they did not pay. Their family, which includes six children, left the home and has since moved three times. OAG came across their case after opening an investigation.

“There is no way to describe how you feel when your home is stolen,” said Marie DiManche. “I’m from Haiti, and it was my dream to own a house. How do you tell your kids you can’t get back what you lost? Thanks to these settlements, my family will finally have a chance to start over again.”

The federal government also brought a criminal investigation against the partners of this sale-leaseback fraud. The United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) indicted Rutigliano and Kiefer on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. USAO also indicted Zornberg for lying to federal investigators about his role in the scam.

The indictment has been dismissed against Rutigliano due to his death. Kiefer pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Zornberg pleaded guilty to perjury as part of a plea deal and has agreed to pay approximately $1.3 million in compensation to the victims of the fraud. Zornberg is awaiting final sentencing in federal criminal court.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Richard Yorke, Senior Investigator Paul Matthews, and Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Nassau Regional Office, Valerie Singleton, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Offices, Marty Mack.  The case was previously handled by former Assistant Attorney General Victoria Safran.

In December 2014, Attorney General Schneiderman launched, a web-based app that helps homeowners determine whether a mortgage assistance company has been vetted by a government agency.

OAG launched in direct response to an observed increase in mortgage rescue scams in New York and across the country. According to a December 2014 report by the Center for NYC Neighborhoods and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, more than 42,000 homeowners have been conned out of $100 million nationwide.

New Yorkers have been hit particularly hard. From March 2010 to September 2014, New York homeowners submitted more than 2,700 foreclosure rescue scam complaints to the Lawyer Committee for Civil Rights, documenting at least $8.25 million in losses. Since launched in December, more than 26,000 New Yorkers have visited the website. has several informational features:

  • Search Government-Vetted Companies: allows consumers to search the name of an individual or company to determine if that entity is a “government-vetted” agency (that is, either a member of the Attorney General’s HOPP network or a HUD-certified counseling agency). If the company searched is not a government-vetted agency, the consumer will be told to proceed with caution and advised with several tips on how to identify signs of a foreclosure rescue scam.
  • Locate Nearby Counseling Partners: The web-based app also features an interactive map that allows consumers to find the nearest Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) grantee. The Attorney General has dedicated $100 million to fund HOPP, a network of more than 85 housing counseling and legal services agencies across the state that are dedicated to providing free assistance to New Yorkers.
  • Report Scams: Consumers who have already been contacted by, or are in the process of working with a company suspected of operating a foreclosure rescue scam, will also have the option to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. They will be directed to a separate page where they can complete a complaint form online. All complaints will be directed to the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection, and will be mediated by the Attorney General’s Office.
  • Get Tips: offers details on how to recognize signs of a foreclosure rescue scam, including samples of scam letters and other materials utilized by fraudsters to target homeowners, and provides information about recent foreclosure scams that have been the subject of enforcement actions brought by the Attorney General’s Office and other law enforcement agencies.

Homeowners at risk of foreclosure should reach out to OAG, which can connect them with a free, qualified housing counseling agency within the Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP).


Ojai woman sentenced in foreclosure fraud, short sale fraud case

July 22nd, 2015 at 3:15pm

Ojai  resident Nelly Luz Rubiano has been sentenced by Ventura County Superior Court Judge David Hirsch to one year in county jail. The 58-year-old had previously pleaded guilty to charges of felony grand theft and foreclosure consultant fraud.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Tony Wold argued that Rubiano presented herself to her fellow Hispanics as a specialist in loan modifications and referred people to Foreclosure Legal Services, located in the city of Orange. As with the Herrera prosecution (also by the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, click here to read), victims were promised their homes would be purchased and sold back to them at a reduced price and they were illegally charged advance/upfront fees for services that were not delivered.

Read the original article in


Twin brother of man serving time for real estate fraud, foreclosure fraud pleads not guilty

July 16th, 2015 at 6:23pm

Juan Herrera, 38, already sentenced for a foreclosure fraud scheme he operated with his twin brother, Michael, is being prosecuted by the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office for related crimes.

Michael pleaded out to the same prosecuting office and is spending the year in jail.

The twins advertised foreclosure services through Spanish-language media, promising homeowners in distress that they would purchase their homes, rent them back to the owners and later re-sell them the homes at reduced prices. According to Senior Deputy District Attorney Tony Wold, the victims, most of whom spoke little or no English, were charge thousands of dollars in advance/upfront fees in order to participate in the defendants’ programs. Advance fees are illegal in the state of California.

Read the original article in the Ventura County Star.



Victims in San Diego foreclosure fraud case get $800,000

July 9th, 2015 at 10:43am

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced that it has obtained more than $800,000 in restitution for 121 victims of a foreclosure fraud operated by William Hutchings.

The case, which was prosecuted in 2009, consisted of 10 defendants. Hutchings was convicted of 160 felony charges and the remaining defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft-related charges.

The defendants acquired over 400 grant deeds to residences in foreclosure by telling their victims that their “federal land grant program” would keep lenders from foreclosing. In addition to getting title, the defendants also charged the homeowners a $10,000 payment to participate in their program.

Read the original article in San Diego 6.

Attorney-imposter pleads guilty in Orange County foreclosure rescue fraud

July 9th, 2015 at 10:28am

A 30-year-old Costa Mesa woman is facing federal prison time after pleading guilty mail fraud and aggravated identity theft in regard to a foreclosure rescue fraud scheme she operated.

According to prosecutors Najia Jalan targeted homeowners with false promises of mortgage relief through legal representation. She used business names such as the National Legal Help Center, United National Mortgage Protection Center, OC NonProfit and American Consumer Law Center to fool her victims into paying (illegal) advance fees ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

For her affiliation with the National Legal Help Center, she and a co-defendant were sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for falsely claiming they would provide legal assistance to consumers, which they could not do, since neither woman was a licensed attorney.

Read the original article in MyNewsLA.


OCC restricts Wells Fargo, other banks, in mortgage servicing

June 29th, 2015 at 9:51am

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau / CFPB is not the only agency after the banks for unethical mortgage practices. Now the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency / OCC has forbidden several of the biggest lenders from acquiring servicing contracts until they clean up their acts.

Read the article in RE-Insider.

Northern California real estate investor agrees to plead guilty to bid rigging at public foreclosure auctions

May 7th, 2015 at 9:50am

A Northern California real estate investor has agreed to plead guilty for his role in conspiracies to rig bids at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

Felony charges were filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland against Wayne Lippman of Walnut Creek, California.  To date, as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, 55 individuals have agreed to plead or have pleaded guilty.

Read the press release on the US DOJ website.

© Copyright 2007-2015 Monique Bryher

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The information and notices contained on The California Real Estate Fraud Report are intended to summarize recent developments in real estate fraud, mortgage fraud, short sale fraud, REO fraud, appraisal fraud, loan modification scams, loan modification fraud and other real estate related crimes occurring in Los Angeles and California. The posts on this site are presented as general research and information and are expressly not intended, and should not be regarded, as legal advice. Much of the information on this site concerns allegations made in civil lawsuits and in criminal indictments. All persons are presumed innocent until convicted of a crime. Readers who have particular questions about real estate fraud, mortgage fraud and appraisal fraud matters or who believe they require legal counsel should seek the advice of an attorney.

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