California Real Estate Fraud Report

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Archive for the 'Mortgage Rescue Fraud' Category

Westminster Attorney charged with others in $44 million loan modification scheme

March 13th, 2015 at 7:47am

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has filed criminal charges against three men, including a disbarred attorney, according to a press release.

Stephen Lester Siringoringo ran the Siringoringo Law Firm in Garden Grove, but the firm had branch offices in Rancho Cucamonga, Upland and Glendale. He and Joshua Michael Cobb have been charged with 24 felony counts of money laundering and 23 felony counts of grand theft, to which they have entered pleas of not guilty. A third man, Alfred O. Clausen, may have left the country.

The bail for both Siringoringo and Cobb is set at $17.8 million and they remain in custody.

The California State Bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel has indicated that over 796 complaints have been filed by homeowners who said they were charged upfront (advance) fees of $3,500 to $8,490 for loan modification services. Although they were promised their loan modification would be handled by a licensed attorney, the criminal complaint alleges this was not the case.

The taking of advance fees has been illegal since October 2009.

Read the original article in the Press Enterprise.  Click here to read the documents published online about Stephen Siringoringo.

Operator of large-scale mortgage relief fraud scam gets 24 year prison sentence

March 5th, 2015 at 3:42pm

The following is a press release from the California Attorney General’s Office:

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California Benjamin B. Wagner today announced that Alan Tikal, the principal operator of a large-scale mortgage fraud scheme, was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

“Alan Tikal’s actions were illegal and will not be tolerated in California.  He and his partners defrauded hundreds of hard-working Californians who were fighting to keep their homes during our state’s foreclosure crisis,” Attorney General Harris said. “This predatory scheme robbed families of their life savings and in many cases, their homes. I thank our California Mortgage Fraud Strike Force and the U.S. Department of Justice for their work to bring these individuals to justice.”

“The financial crisis that hit our communities so hard made it very difficult for a lot of people to make ends meet,“ said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “Alan Tikal cynically took advantage of the desperation those people felt for his own profit, stealing payments meant to preserve family homes. Although we cannot undo the harm Tikal inflicted, today’s sentence provides a measure of justice.”

In September 2014, Alan David Tikal, 46, was convicted of 11 counts of mail fraud and one count of money laundering by United States District Judge Troy L. Nunley. The case was jointly prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California and the California Attorney General’s Office.

Between January 7, 2010 and August 20, 2013, Tikal operated a business under the name KATN, which targeted vulnerable and non-English speaking homeowners looking for mortgage assistance in the wake of the financial meltdown. According to evidence presented at trial, Tikal and his associates promised these homeowners that their outstanding mortgage debt would be reduced by 75%.  Tikal falsely claimed that he was a registered private banker with access to an enormous line of credit and was able to pay off homeowners’ debt in full. In exchange for various fees and payments, the homeowners existing mortgages would be satisfied and replaced with new loans to Tikal at 25% of the original loan obligation.

There were no instances in which the homeowner’s mortgage was paid, forgiven, or extinguished. Instead Tikal pocketed the victim’s money and spent it on chartered airline travel, a $5,000 suit, new cars, and other extravagant living expenses. Tikal and his associates convinced more than 1,000 homeowners in California and other states to participate in this fraudulent scam. Homeowners collectively paid more than $5,800,000 in fees and monthly payments to Tikal and his associates. The results were catastrophic for many families, the scam drained the victims’ bank accounts and ultimately led to the loss of their homes.

In February, co-defendant Ray Kornfeld was sentenced to 5 years for his role in the scheme and ordered to pay over $3 million in restitution to the victims. Co-defendant Tamara Tikal previously entered a guilty plea and will be sentenced on April 23, 2015.

Tikal’s arrest arose from an investigation by Special Inspector General for the Trouble Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) and Attorney General Harris’ Mortgage Fraud Strike Force with assistance from the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office and Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

The Mortgage Fraud Strike Force was formed in May 2011 to comprehensively investigate and prosecute misconduct in the mortgage industry.  The Attorney General’s efforts include securing approximately $20 billion for California in the National Mortgage Settlement and sponsoring the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, a package of laws instituting permanent mortgage-related reforms.

Roseville residents plead guilty in loan modification scheme targeting Hispanics

February 6th, 2015 at 10:41am

Two Roseville residents each face 20 years in federal prison and up to $250,000 for operating a loan modification scam that primarily targeted distressed Hispanic homeowners (affinity fraud, ethnic fraud).

Martin Wayne Flanders, 50, and Ligia Sandoval Spafford, 48, pleaded guilty to mail fraud according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner.

According to court documents filed by prosecutors, between 2008 and 2010, Flanders charged clients upfront/advance fees and promised to provide the victims loan modifications, mortgage loan audits, credit repair, debt relief, bankruptcy filings, and an option to sell their homes to investors, who would rent back to them and offer a later re-purchase. Victims were found by advertising in Spanish-language TV and magazines. They also had air time on the Bay Area Spanish-language Christian radio station known as Radio Luz, where Sandoval advertised the “services” she and Martin Flanders offered.

The charges in this case were numerous. Read the original article in the Central Valley Business Times to learn more details.

 

Hispanics charged with targeting other Hispanics in Orange County loan modification scam

January 29th, 2015 at 3:50pm

Five people are facing charges of committing loan modification fraud by targeting Latino victims throughout Southern California. Three of the defendants are family members and are charged with leading a family-run home loan modification ring and illegally charging victims for services that they did not provide.

According to an article in the Orange County Breeze,

“Carlos Centeno is accused of owning and operating the Foreclosure Prevention Department in Irvine, and co-defendants Ricardo Centeno and Lizeth Arzate are accused of owning and operating Debt Settlers of America (DSA) in Orange, which advertised assistance for the renegotiation of home loans. The defendants are accused of advertising DSA on Hispanic radio stations throughout the state in order to target victims.

Co-defendants Hector Valdivia and Susie Rabadan are accused of being office managers and consultants at DSA. Valdivia and Rabadan are accused of knowingly assisting Carlos Centeno, Ricardo Centeno and Liz Arzate in charging and accepting illegal upfront fees from victims for services that they did not provide by collecting and processing loan modification applications.”

Prosecutors are alleging that between December 2009 and December 2012, the defendants contacted 23 victims and promised them assistance with negotiating their home loans. The defendants then charged their victims upfront fees (“advance fees”) of $2,000 to $2,500, which is illegal. They are further accused of directly collecting several victims’ monthly mortgage payments and depositing them into their personal bank accounts. As a result, many of the victims’ homes were foreclosed by the lenders.

Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Pete Pierce of the Major Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case.

Yorba Linda Man, Brother Charged in Loan Modification Scam

January 16th, 2015 at 12:08pm

Thirty-seven year-old Carlos Jose Centeno has been arraigned on allegations he was the puppet-master of a $390,000 loan modification scam that victimized mostly Spanish-speaking persons.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Pete Pierce reported that Centeno has been charged with 121 felony counts that include conspiracy and grand theft for illegally charging upfront fees for loan modification services. His companies were called Foreclosure Prevention Department and Orange-based Debt Settlers of America.

Carlos Centeno’s co-defendants are his brother, Rick Centeno, wife, Lizeth Arzate, Susie Rabadan and Hector Valdivia.

Read the original article in the OC Register.

Sentences Handed Out in Spanish-Language Foreclosure Fraud

December 10th, 2014 at 8:39am

Four people have been sentenced in a large-scale real estate loan modification scam operating out of Pico Rivera.

Sergeant Dana McCants of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau said that his agency’s investigation into “Safe Haven,” aka “Your Dreams Come True,” showed that the firm falsely promised distressed homeowners help in saving their homes. The company advertised on Christian Spanish radio stations (affinity fraud) and according McCants, reeled in over 500 Spanish-speaking homeowners.

Safe Haven Executive Director Alex Jurado received five years in prison, as did co-defendant Alex Canjura. Erika Perez and Oswaldo Flores each received 16 months in county jail.

Attorney Tanmay Mistry, who was associated with Safe Haven, was disbarred after being accused of 13 counts of professional misconduct. If you read the California State Bar’s notes on Mistry’s disbarment, you will learn more details about his involvement with Safe Haven.

Read the original article in the Whittier Daily News.

 

Huntington Beach Man Gets 10 Year Prison Sentence for Foreclosure Rescue Scam

November 7th, 2014 at 7:57am

United States Attorney Benjamin Wagner announced that Jeremy Michael “Mike” Head, 34, of Huntington Beach, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for operating a national foreclosure rescue scam.

Head was found found guilty in May 2013 by a federal jury that was tried in front of United States District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller. In September, Judge Mueller sentenced Mike Head’s brother and co-defendant Charles Head, 40, to 35 years in prison.

According to prosecutors, Charles and Mike Head, without the knowledge of homeowners in distress, used straw buyers as substitutes on title for properties that had equity. The defendants then applied for mortgages to take whatever equity was available for the properties and shared it among themselves, netting in total over $15 million. The homeowners lost their equity and homes and their credit was severely damaged.

Here is what law enforcement and prosecutors had to say about Mike Head:

U.S. Attorney Wagner said: “Mike Head made a small fortune taking advantage of victims who looked to him for help. Instead of helping, he stole the last remaining equity in their homes, and many victims were evicted and left destitute. He will now go to prison and pay for his crimes. This office continues to vigorously prosecute multiple variations of mortgage fraud throughout our district.”

“The scheme Head and his co-conspirators devised preyed upon individuals when they were most vulnerable and lived in fear of imminent foreclosure. Despite promises to help their victims avoid foreclosure, many were financially devastated by the scheme,” said Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the Sacramento FBI. “The FBI is committed to thoroughly investigating complex mortgage fraud schemes, identifying all participants, and ensuring that those who have violated the trust of the American public face justice in federal court.”

“Today’s sentencing sends a clear message to those who commit mortgage fraud, the consequences can be severe,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Thomas McMahon, IRS-Criminal Investigation. “The defendants in this case have hurt so many people and so many of our communities. This sentencing highlights IRS-CI’s commitment to hold accountable those involved in these types of crimes.”

Read the original article in the Imperial Valley News.

Target of Mortgage Scam Probe Caught Trying to Board Fly to Afghanistan

October 31st, 2014 at 6:58am

Knowing that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Santa Ana was considering filing criminal charges against her for falsely claiming to be an attorney and operating a mortgage prevention scam, 30-year-old Najia Jalan decided to buy a one-way ticket from LAX through Dubai to Afghanistan. But as she boarded, she found two special agents with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) waiting to arrest her on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Najia Jalan, who has previously been convicted of burglary, theft, possession of narcotics, obtaining money under false pretenses, also has used the aliases of Poh Yee Neo, Sarah Adams and Korina Taylor.

According to a complaint dated October 20 by the Treasury Department, Jalan allegedly used various consumer firms to fool distressed homeowners into paying her substantial fees.

Note: The real Poh Yee Neo is a licensed lawyer who works in Hong Kong and has no connection to Jalan.

Read the original article in OC Weekly.

Mark Nagy Atalla Ordered to Pay Judgment of $515,000 by Federal Judge

October 29th, 2014 at 8:37am

Mark Nagy Atalla, a defendant in an a 2013 action by the Federal Trade Commission, has been ordered by a federal district court in Southern California to pay almost $515,000. The FTC brought its complaint against Atalla, alleging that he and his two companies violated the FTC Act and the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule (also known as the MARS Rule or Regulation O) by promising to lower homeowners’ mortgage payments in exchange for change and advance fee that reached as high as $4,495.

“The court’s order in this case makes a very clear point,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “When you sign a settlement order with the Federal Trade Commission, you’d better be up-front about your assets. If you’re not, we won’t hesitate to collect suspended monetary judgments.”

Attala is also banned from future work in the debt relief and mortgage relief businesses.

Read the original article on the Federal Trade Commission website.

 

Jewel Hinkles and Others Sentenced for Loan Modification Fraud

September 30th, 2014 at 10:32am

Four people have been sentenced to federal prison for scheming to victimizing homeowners in foreclosure.

U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb  sentenced Jesse Wheeler, 37, of Roseville to three years; Jewel Hinkles, aka Cydney Sanchez, 64, of Los Angeles to five years; Cynthia Corn, 61, of Oakland to two and a half years; and Brent Medearis, 48, of Modesto to one year and 10 months in prison.

Evidence presented by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California showed that Jewel Hinkles was the founder and general manager of Horizon Property Holdings LLC in Beverly Hills. From 2008 through 2010, she offered programs called “Save My Home” or “Homesaver” that promised homeowners she would save their homes and reduce the principal on their mortgages (loan modifications scams).

Jesse Wheeler was one of Hinkles’ affiliates and his Roseville-based company, J.W. Financial Solutions, took in approximately $2,133,376 from more than 600 victims.

Prosecutors said the defendants promised the homeowners they would buy the homeowners’ mortgages at a discount in order to reduce the principal and monthly payments. To effect this, the defendants filed fraudulent deeds (title fraud) transferring an interest in the homeowner’s property to a fictitious entity called Pacifica Group 49/II.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee S. Bickley and Matthew D. Segal.

Read the original article in the Merced Sun-Star.

© 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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