Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Jury Convicts South Florida Pair Accused Of Running Sale Leaseback, Equity Stripping Foreclosure Rescue Racket That Swindled Distressed Homeowners

From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):

  • The Department of Justice [] convicted two defendants for their roles in a South Florida mortgage fraud scheme that took advantage of homeowners on the brink of foreclosure and left many without their homes.

    Cathy Saffer of Pompano Beach, Fla., and Barrington Coombs, a certified public accountant of Weston, Fla., were convicted [] by a jury in West Palm Beach, Fla. on conspiracy and fraud charges in connection with a so-called “foreclosure rescue scheme,” in which the defendants promised to help distressed homeowners but instead swindled them out of the remaining equity in their houses.(1)

    The jury convicted Saffer of one count of conspiracy, three counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud. Coombs was convicted of one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud. Lisa Wright of Pompano Beach, Fla., pleaded guilty to her participation in the same foreclosure rescue scheme in March 2012.(2)

    At trial, evidence revealed that Saffer and Wright operated a business called Foreclosure Solution Specialists (FSS) from 2006 to 2009. Through FSS, Wright and Saffer targeted homeowners facing foreclosure, advertising that FSS could assist those homeowners in remaining in their homes.

    When contacted by distressed homeowners seeking assistance, Wright and Saffer misrepresented to those homeowners that their homes would be sold to investors.

    According to witnesses at trial, Wright and Saffer also claimed that customers could remain in their homes after the sales and promised them an opportunity to repurchase the homes at a later date. Rather than selling the homes to legitimate investors, Wright and Saffer designed sham sales to straw purchasers whom they paid to participate in the scheme.
  • These sham sales drew equity out of the homes, which Wright and Saffer pocketed for their own purposes. After doing so, Wright and Saffer allowed the loans to go into foreclosure. Homeowners ultimately lost all of the equity in their homes, and most of the victims were forced to move out of their homes.
For the Justice Department press release, see Two Individuals Convicted in Florida in Foresclosure Rescue Scheme.

(1) For more on this type of foreclosure rescue ripoff, see:

(2) Presumably, part of the 'prize' Wright hopes to get by 'winning the race to the prosecutor's office' and agreeing to plead guilty instead of going to trial on her charges includes softening the hammering she'll likely get at sentencing for throwing her co-conspirators under the bus:

  • "When a conspiracy is exposed by an arrest or execution of search warrants, soon-to-be defendants know that the first one to "belly up" and tell what he knows receives the best deal. The pressure is to bargain and bargain early, even if an indictment has not been filed." United States v. Moody, 206 F.3d 609, 617 (6th Cir. 2000) (Wiseman, J., concurring).

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