Monday, December 10, 2012

Foreclosure Rescue Peddler Gets 35 Years For Forging Loan Modification Approvals, Then Structuring Mailing Scheme To Hijack Subsequent Payments On Phony Mortgage Workout Deals

In Baltimore, Maryland, The Baltimore Sun reports:

  • Con artist Rodney Getlan did not just take people's money — his actions caused them to lose their homes.

    That he stole the sanctuary of a roof and four walls may have led to Getlan's getting a much longer prison term. Baltimore County Circuit Judge Vicki Ballou-Watts sentenced Getlan to 35 years in prison this week, a sentence on par with punishment for some violent crimes.

    "Rodney got what he deserved," said Lauri Hartz, who attended the court proceeding as one of nearly 50 known victims of Getlan's scheme to divert mortgage payments to his own accounts.
  • In the Getlan case, Hartz and her mother, Sally Begun-Gordon, 83, lost about $30,000 to the fraud. But their financial and emotional distress has been much greater, Hartz said. Now both of their homes are in the foreclosure process. Hartz is going through mediation with her lender; her mother has not reached that point yet.

    The two Rockville residents were referred to Getlan by their mortgage broker, so they had reason to think he was legitimate, Hartz said.

    Prosecutors have alleged that Getlan caused direct losses of about $400,000, though the amount of restitution owed is still being litigated. Getlan pleaded guilty to crimes related to nine homeowners on the condition that the state's attorney would not pursue the remaining claims.

    Prosecutors said that the scheme began in 2009, in the middle of the housing crisis, and survived a cease-and-desist order and even his first guilty plea. In addition to charging an advance for a loan modification — generally illegal in Maryland — Getlan also forged documents to make it appear that lenders had approved the modifications, according to the charging document.

    Getlan, 45, of Owings Mills, then used several bank accounts and fake company names to make homeowners think they were sending their monthly payments to their mortgage servicers — even though the money was actually being sent to mail forwarding services across the country that he set up, prosecutors said.

    He also changed the mailing addresses on his victim's accounts so that their mortgage servicers would not notify them that something was amiss.

    Throughout the scheme, Getlan was on notice that his actions were illegal, prosecutors say, and he continued to flout the law. A company he was affiliated with, U.S. Equity Solutions LLC, received a cease-and-desist order in mid-2009.

    Then, in February 2011, Getlan was charged in Baltimore County with theft related to a mortgage modification he'd pretended to procure for a man in South Carolina. He pleaded guilty to the single count of theft but continued to receive monthly mortgage checks form dozens of other victims, prosecutors said.

    "He was collecting money from this group after he was sentenced," Naylor said.

    While Ballou-Watts suspended 10 years of Getlan's sentence, and Maryland's parole guidelines mean he will likely be behind bars for less than a decade, the sentence is a long one for mortgage fraud when compared to federal sentences in similar cases.
For the story, see Long sentence highlights efforts to prosecute mortgage fraud (Owings Mills man given 35-year sentence by Baltimore County judge).

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