Saturday, November 29, 2008

N. Virginia Man Cops Plea In Fraud Case; Allegedly Pocketed Refinancing Proceeds Intended To Pay Off Existing Liens, Sold Same Loans Multiple Times

From the U.S. Attorney's Office (Eastern District - Virginia):

  • Vijay K. Taneja, age 47, of Fairfax, Virginia, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme involving his company, Financial Mortgage, Inc., (“FMI”), which originated and sold mortgages on residential properties in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

According to the press release, the allegations against Taneja contained in court documents supporting the guilty plea include:

  1. creating fictitious loans with bogus loan closings,
  2. selling the same legitimate loan to multiple investors, and
  3. pocketing the proceeds generated from refinancing loans, when the bulk of those proceeds were intended to payoff prior mortgages on the same properties.

Court documents also state that for at least part of the scheme, Taneja conspired with the owner of TitlePro, a now-defunct Fairfax, Virginia title company, the press release states.

For the U.S. Attorney's press release, see Fairfax Man Pleaded Guilty in $33 Million Mortgage Fraud Case.

Go here, Go here, and Go here for other stories of trust account / escrow account theft of funds. sneaky slick escrow agents gamma

Upstate NY Developer Faces Felonies For Allegedly Using Buyers' Deposits For Costs Unrelated To Building Their Homes

In Saratoga Springs, New York, the Schenectady Gazette reports on once-thriving homebuilder James McLagan who, once the real estate market tanked, now finds himself facing six felony grand larceny counts and a misdemeanor charge of scheming to fraud along with a number of civil lawsuits:

  • [P]ublic records show that McLagan’s mortgage company and other creditors say he stopped paying his bills sometime last year, after he had already racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in mechanic’s liens from contractors and creditors.

  • That may mean he used housing deposits from customers to pay other bills rather than for supplies and contractor labor costs for their houses, which is illegal, [Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy III] said.

  • In these particular criminal charges, we’re alleging that he intentionally stole money and didn’t use the money he was given by the homeowner for materials or products that were to be used specifically in the home that was being built,” he said.

  • [DA Investigator Rich] Martin noted that state law requires builders who take money up front to put it into an escrow account and only draw on it for expenses for that home.

For more, see Boom times over for arrested developer.

For other posts on homeowners left in the lurch due to actions by builders/contractors, go here, go here, go here, and go here. StiffingContractorsZeta

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hawaii Feds Probe Alleged "Bogus Bond" Foreclosure Rescue Scam; Homeowners Clipped Out Of $300K+

In Hawaii, The Honolulu Advertiser reports:

  • The FBI is investigating several local companies that allegedly bilked homeowners out of more than $300,000 on O'ahu, the Big Island and Maui with false promises to help them avoid foreclosure, according to local lenders and law enforcement officials.

  • The families, many of which are Native Hawaiian, were charged between $2,500 and $10,000 to attend seminars or counseling sessions on avoiding foreclosure, and were told they would receive bonds worth $1 million(1) that could be used to pay off the outstanding balance of the mortgage. Officials said the bonds were bogus and no mortgages were paid off.

For more, see Homeowners targets of scam (Bogus bonds sold as mortgage relief landed many in foreclosure).

See also:

(1) According to the story, after attending the seminars, families are told that a $1 million "Royal Hawaiian Treasury Bond" will be sent to the homeowners' bank with a letter explaining that it will cover the outstanding balance of the mortgage. The companies tell the homeowner that because they are members of the "Hawaiian nation," the bank will no longer be able to demand money from them because they are the land's "rightful owners," the story states.

Las Vegas Man Pleads Guilty In Foreclosure Rescue, Transfer Tax Evasion Schemes

In Las Vegas, Nevada, the Las Vegas Sun reports:

  • A 64-year-old Las Vegas man, Mathew Marion, pleaded guilty [Thursday] morning to a mortgage fraud scam. [...] The investigation revealed that between July 2007 and November 2007, Marion falsely told homeowners facing foreclosure that he would buy their houses and land in Clark County for a price that equaled the sum of the outstanding mortgages, together with a small cash payment, and promised that he would pay off the mortgages to prevent the properties from going into foreclosure.

Reportedly, the investigation also uncovered a scheme designed to allow Marion to conceal his identity and avoid paying transfer taxes to the county.(1)

For more, see Las Vegas man pleads guilty to mortgage loan scam.

For the Nevada Attorney General press release, see Attorney General Announces Guilty Plea In Mortgage Loan Scam.

(1) According to the story, Marion was sentenced to pay a $20,000 fine to the state and ordered that he pay restitution to Clark County of $89,990.60 for property transfer taxes that were owed on properties. He was also ordered to pay restitution to the victim homeowners in the amount of $43,009.40. The total restitution payment is $130,000. He reportedly pleaded guilty to nine gross misdemeanor counts of making false representations on titles and one count of gross misdemeanor of making a fraudulent conveyance in connection with a mortgage foreclosure rescue scam, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Colorado AG Foreclosure Rescue Crackdown Hits 15 Firms

In Denver, Colorado, the Rocky Mountain News reports:

  • [Colorado Attorney General John] Suthers [...] said he has taken action to protect homeowners who are in foreclosure from “rescue” firms that are not following Colorado’s Foreclosure Protection Act, which he supported and saw passed during the 2006 legislative session. So far, his office cease and desist agreements with 15 companies to prevent them from operating in Colorado until they follow this law.(1)

  • Many distressed homeowners in foreclosure are bombarded with solicitations from companies that offer to help save their homes. Under the Foreclosure Protection Act, homeowners enjoy many protections against abusive tactics. Rescue firms cannot accept an upfront fee and must provide the homeowner with a contract that specifies the services to be performed. Rescue firms are also prohibited from taking a lien or interest in the title to the home unless they provide certain disclosures.

For more, see Suthers cracks down on mortgage fraud.

(1) Under the cease and Desist agreements, seven rescue firms have agreed to cease operations in Colorado until they comes into compliance with the Foreclosure Protection Act. Companies that have agreed to cease & desist during 2008 include: Crisis Management, LLC, in Glendale, Arizona; Davis Foreclosure Assistance, Englewood, N.J. Debt Advocacy Center; Cleveland; Franklin Equity, Santa Ana, Calif.; HomeAssure, New York, N.Y.; National Foreclosure Counseling Servicesl Jacksonville, Fla.; and New Hope Modifications, Bellmawr, N.J. An additional eight companies have previously reached cease and desist agreements with the attorney general since the Foreclosure Protection Act was enacted, including one Colorado company, Denver Home Rescue.

Fee-Based Loan Modification Firms Require State Mortgage Brokerage License When Working With Colorado Homeowners, Says State Regulator

In Denver, Colorado, the Rocky Mountain News reports:

  • Only licensed mortgage brokers may provide home loan modifications in Colorado under the new Mortgage Broker Licensing Law, the Colorado Division of Real Estate reminded consumers on Wednesday.(1) The reminder came because of the increased number of complaints the division has received about loan modification companies.

For more, see Loan modifications require mortgage broker license.

See also, The Denver Post: Modified- loan services face scrutiny:

  • "We are getting a considerable number of complaints from homeowners who are being charged high fees with no results," said Zachary Urban, division spokesman. [...] Struggling homeowners are paying $4,000 to $6,000 upfront and not receiving the services that were promised, Urban said.

Go here for the recently enunciated Colorado Division of Real Estate Position Statement on Loan Modifications.

(1) Loan modification companies purporting to assist homeowners in backing out of bad loans by analyzing mortgage documents to find errors committed by lenders in violation of Federal and state lending and consumer protection laws may also need a law license in the states they are operating in, judging by legal actions against such firms alleging, among other things, the unauthorized practice of law recently brought in a Tennessee Attorney General lawsuit, and a Florida Attorney General lawsuit.

Loan Modification Firm Renegs On Money-Back Guarantee, Say Customers, Company Sales Rep

In San Diego, California, KGTV-TV Channel 10 recently ran a story in which it interviewed two unsatisfied customers and a former sales representative of a local company that reportedly took upfront fees (about $4,000) in exchange for money-back guaranteed promises to help lower loan payments, principal amounts on loans, and interest rates on the customers' home mortgages.

According to the story, the firm failed on its promises to the two customers, the customers haven't gotten their refunds, the sales rep quit after a couple of his clients didn't receive their promised refunds, and court records show the company has been already been sued by dissatisfied customers.

For more, see Company Accused Of Using Housing Crisis For Profit, and the Channel 10 I-Team Investigation blog on People’s First Financial.

Go here for the KGTV Channel 10 video report.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Alleged Long Island Foreclosure Rescue, Equity Stripping Scammers Among 16 Included In Two Federal Fraud Indictments

In Nassau and Suffolk County, New York, Newsday reports:

  • [F]ederal officials yesterday arrested 16 people who they said were involved in two multimillion-dollar Long Island mortgage fraud schemes, including one suspected of being tied to a drug distribution ring. The schemes are believed by investigators to have bilked lenders of a total of $13.9 million through finance companies in both Nassau and Suffolk counties.

  • Those arrested [in the alleged foreclosure rescue, equity stripping scheme] included Robert Guerrero, 33, who Brooklyn federal prosecutors said controlled Property Cash Inc. of Greenlawn. According to an indictment unsealed yesterday, Property Cash was nominally in the name of his girlfriend, Alison Edelman, 30, who was also charged. Federal agents also arrested Gary Jacques, 33, who according to court papers controlled Home Cash Inc. of Huntington Station.(1)

  • According to the indictment, Guerrero and Jacques used straw buyers with good credit to fraudulently obtain mortgages to pay for homes in Huntington, Greenlawn, Bay Shore and Uniondale at inflated prices.

  • Guerrero and Jacques gained control of the properties through use of a "foreclosure rescue scheme" in which they promised homeowners in danger of defaulting on their mortgages that they could sign their properties over to Home Cash or Property Cash, a method that stole the equity, the indictment charged.

  • The various straw buyers, who were paid up to $10,000 for their participation, had their credit inflated by Guerrero and Jacques, the indictment stated. Once Guerrero and Jacques got the properties, they flipped them at prices inflated with the help of licensed appraisers, prosecutors charged. The scheme lost lenders $8.8 million, prosecutors said.

For more, including the details of the second alleged mortgage fraud case, see Feds accuse 16 in LI mortgage fraud schemes.

See also:

(1) According to the U.S. Attorney press release, those charged in this alleged scam are: LAWRENCE ALBERS, 51; AL CASSIANO JR., 41; ALISON EDELMAN, 30; RONY PHILIPPE EXANTUS, 45; ROBERT ALEXANDER GUERRERO, 33; VICTOR GUERRERO, 35; ANSY GUERRIER, 29; GARY JACQUES, 33; JEFFREY JACQUES, 25; MICHAEL McENROE, 37; JOHANNY MENDEZ, 26; SANDRA SAM, 44.

S. California Group Claiming "Sovereign" Immunity From Laws Seize Vacant Foreclosures & Rent Them Out, Leaving Authorities Scratching Their Heads

In Southern California, The Press Enterprise reports on a local outfit claiming to be a religious orgainization with "soverieign" immunity from federal and local laws that, according to some local real estate agents, is going around seizing vacant foreclosed houses by recording legitimate looking deeds with the county recorder, and then turning around and renting the vacant homes to squatters.

Law enforcement authorities appear to be somewhat befuddled about what to do about this group since, up until now, all they have been able to do is initiate an investigation.

For the story, see Would-be homebuyers find themselves in ownership limbo.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mortgage Audit Services Offered To Homeowners In Financial Trouble

The Boston Herald recently ran a story on the mortgage audit industry, a group that is offering their services to homeowners in trouble with their mortgages:

  • [M]ortgage auditors review customers’ loan papers for forged signatures, sham home appraisals or other illegal acts. Any wrongdoing can strengthen financially strapped homeowners’ hands in negotiations with lenders.

  • Many customers are seeking “loan modifications,” where banks agree to cut homeowners’ interest rate or otherwise change mortgage terms to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. Others want lenders to OK “short sales,” where borrowers sell homes in today’s weak market for less than their unpaid mortgage balances and banks simply “eat” the difference.


  • Common flaws include math errors on federal Truth in Lending Act forms, which by law must accurately list a mortgage’s total lifetime cost within $35. While such mistakes can seem minor, they often give homeowners just enough leverage to get out of fraudulent loans.

Reportedly, one firm featured in the story performs about 100 checks on each customer’s loan, producing five- to 15-page reports and charging about $350 to $600.

For more, see Mortgage ’auditors’ help people fight foreclosure. missing mortgage foreclosure docs gamma UndoMortgageLoans TILAdelta

Illinois AG Continues Putting The Hammer On Upfront Fee Foreclosure Rescue Operators As Seven More Lawsuits Are Filed

From the Office of the Illinois Attorney General:

  • Attorney General Lisa Madigan [yesterday] announced that she has filed seven new lawsuits(1) against so-called mortgage “rescue” companies and warned consumers about an alarming rise in these scams that prey on vulnerable homeowners on the verge of foreclosure.


  • In each of the lawsuits filed late [Monday], Madigan alleges that con artists targeted homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments and promised that, for an upfront fee, the scammers could negotiate with the mortgage lenders to reduce the payments and save their homes.

  • However, according to Madigan’s complaints, after these “consultants” collected the upfront fees, they failed to negotiate or perform any services on behalf of the homeowners, leaving consumers at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure.

  • This tactic violates Illinois’ Mortgage Rescue Fraud Act, which prohibits mortgage rescue companies from requiring payment from consumers prior to completing all the terms of a rescue contract. [...] With these new filings, Madigan has brought lawsuits against 22 mortgage rescue fraud companies.

For more, see Madigan Sues Seven Companies For Mortgage Rescue Fraud (Attorney General Urges Consumers to Resist “Rescue” Schemes and Seek Reputable Assistance).

(1) Those companies sued, according to the Illinois AG press release (and links to copies of the lawsuits), are:

Tennessee AG, MALS Tag Another Upfront Fee Foreclosure Rescue Operator With Lawsuits

From the office of the Tennessee Attorney General:

  • Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper filed suit [Tuesday] to stop another Tennessee foreclosure rescue company and its principal from charging service fees to consumers and then failing to follow through with the services promised. The lawsuit filed [Tuesday] alleges violations of consumer protection laws.(1)


  • The State’s complaint, which was filed in Shelby County Chancery Court, also alleges violations of the Tennessee unauthorized practice of law statutes(2) and the Tennessee Credit Services Businesses Act.

For the AG's press release, see Attorney General Files Suit Against Tennessee Foreclosure Rescue Company, Requests Asset Freeze, Halt To Alleged Unlawful Activities.

See also, Eyewitness News ABC24-CW30: Scammed into Foreclosure.

(1) According to the AG's press release, Attorney General Cooper on behalf of Mary Clement, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, sued Patrick & Patrick, LLC doing business as Patrick & Patrick Loss Mitigation Services, and its principal, Denise Patrick, also known as Sondrette D. Patrick. The defendants are also doing business via the Internet at

(2) Bringing charges of unauthorized practice of law against upfront fee loan modification / foreclosure rescue operators appears to be gaining steam - the Florida Attorney General reportedly made similar allegations in a recent lawsuit brought against a loan modification company.

(3) Last month, the Tennessee Attorney General's office and Memphis Area Legal Services also filed multiple lawsuits against another upfront fee foreclosure rescue operator, according to this press release.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thousands Of Foreclosures Are Void, Says Massachusetts Class Action Demanding Lenders & Their Lawyers Prove Note Ownership

In Boston, Massachusetts, the Boston Herald reports:

  • A class action lawsuit has been filed that could stop hundreds of foreclosures and reverse thousands of others. “The rush to foreclose has turned the process into a circus,” said Gary Klein, an attorney representing two Boston homeowners facing foreclosure. "We’re asking these lenders to prove they hold the mortgage.”

  • The suit filed in Suffolk Superior Court alleges that since 2004 GMAC Mortgage, Deutsche Bank National Trust, Harmon Law Offices and Ablitt Law Offices foreclosed on properties despite the fact that they do not own or were not assigned the mortgages.

  • Klein estimates that as many as 1,000 homes in Massachusetts could be affected and thousands more going forward. If the lawsuit is successful, foreclosures in the pipeline would be placed on hold until lenders can prove they own the mortgage. If a foreclosure sale has taken place without the proper authority, it could be set aside.

For more, see Lawyer to lenders: Prove you own mortgages (or try here for a free version).

See also, The Boston Globe: Lenders' right to foreclose is challenged:

  • "Massachusetts' foreclosure process has become an undisciplined and lawless rush to seize homes," the suit alleged. "Many thousands of foreclosures are plainly void under statute and settled Massachusetts case law."

For posts that reference the failure of some mortgage lenders and their attorneys to prove ownership of the promissory note when starting foreclosure actions, Go Here, Go Here, Go Here, and Go Here. missing mortgage foreclosure docs gamma

Maryland State Lawmaker's Bankruptcy Filing Stalls Completion Of Sale Leaseback, Foreclosure Rescue Court Case

In Annapolis, Maryland, The Capital reports:

  • Del. Tony McConkey filed for bankruptcy [Monday], delaying a jury trial that was set to begin today in a civil case in which he is accused of scamming a woman out of her home. A judge ruled in September that the Severna Park Republican violated state law when he bought the home of a Pasadena woman facing foreclosure.

  • The jury was set to rule on additional allegations of fraud, misrepresentation and determine final damages, but Mr. McConkey's bankruptcy filing puts a halt to that process. He filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Maryland.


  • Circuit Court Judge D. William Sampson ruled in September that Mr. McConkey violated the Protection of Homeowners in Foreclosure Act [Sec. 7-301 to 7-325] in 2006 by acting as a foreclosure consultant to Ms. [Teresa] Milligan and then buying her home. Judge Sampson declared Mr. McConkey's deed to the house null and void, but did not decide how much Ms. Milligan should receive in damages.

For more, see McConkey's bankruptcy filing delays foreclosure case.

See also, WBAL-TV Channel 11: Delegate Facing Lawsuit Files For Bankruptcy (Delegate Accused In Foreclosure Fraud Scheme).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Queens DA Indicts Nine In Alleged Straw Buyer Scam Using Fake Identities To Fradulently Flip Homes; Widow Has Home Sold Out From Under Her

In Jamaica, Queens, the New York Daily News reports:

  • An accused sex tour operator and a high-ranking Brooklyn court official were among nine people indicted Tuesday in a $1.4 million mortgage fraud scheme that featured stolen identities and an elaborate series of masquerades.(1) In the scheme, con artists using fake IDs to conceal their participation bought and sold two Queens properties and one in Brooklyn and then took out the mortgages, authorities said.


  • The victims included a Jamaica woman who owned her home outright and now faces foreclosure; and a New Jersey woman, whose identity was stolen and is now fighting off banks over mortgages fraudulently taken out in her name, said [Queens District Attorney Richard] Brown.

In addition to the accused sex tour operator (who is also a certified public accountant) and the now-chief deputy county clerk for Kings County (an attorney who, prior to taking his current position, was in private practice at the time of the alleged bad acts and, according to this New York Post article, the brother of a Brooklyn trial judge), a disbarred attorney who allegedly handled all the closings of the transactions involved was also among the indicted, a Queens DA press release said.

For more, see Court clerk indicted in mortgage scam.

See also:

(1) According to a Queens district attorney press release, those charged are Norman Barabash, 63, Bellerose; Shamim, a.k.a. Sam, Choudhury, 35, Jamaica, N.Y.; Gulam, a.k.a. Zack, Chowdhury, 22, Lawrence; John D’Emic, 59, Brooklyn; Daisy Guzman-Saavedra, 38, Yorktown Heights; Nazrul Islam, 23, Jamaica, N.Y.; Alan Morris, 58, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; Boris Nektalov, 23, Flushing; Rajendar Persaud, a.k.a., Rommel Persaud, 35, Verbank, N.Y.

Arizona Refinancing Scam Leaves Elderly Woman Facing Loss Of Home Of 45 Years; Court Orders $343K+ In Restitution To Four Seniors

From the Arizona Attorney General:

  • Attorney General Terry Goddard [...] announced that a Phoenix mortgage broker has been sentenced to prison for operating a residential mortgage scam that defrauded four Phoenix seniors of more than $400,000.


  • According to court documents, [Rick Thomas] McCullough was the president of licensed mortgage broker CactusCash, Inc. In 2005 and 2006, he used this position to persuade four seniors, two single women and one couple, to refinance their homes through him for amounts far greater than the balance of their existing mortgages.

  • McCullough also convinced all four victims to invest their net refinancing proceeds with him, effectively obtaining for himself much of the equity that these elderly clients had in their homes. McCullough claimed that he would invest the victims’ funds in real estate and personally guaranteed the loans. [...] In fact, McCullough used the money to make personal purchases, including a $42,000 ring for his wife.


  • "Because of this vicious scheme, an elderly woman may lose her home of 45 years and a 65-year-old victim must choose between a needed surgery and making the new mortgage payment," said Goddard.

For the Arizona AG press release, see Phoenix Mortgage Broker Who Defrauded Seniors Gets Prison Term.