Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Federal Jury Convicts Three For Roles In Cold Calling/Boiler Room Racket Peddling Bogus Loan Modification Programs Falsely Represented As Being Sponsored By U.S. Gov't; Trio Joins Eight Other Confederates Who Earlier Copped Guilty Pleas In Awaiting Sentencing In Swindle That Clipped 4,000+ Struggling Homeowners Nationwide Out Of $7M+

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Los Angeles, California):
  • A federal jury [] convicted three defendants who worked at a Rancho Cucamonga business that offered bogus loan modification programs to thousands of financially distressed homeowners who lost more than $7 million when they paid for services, including loan modifications, that were never provided.

    The three Southland residents found guilty [] of federal fraud charges were associated with 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.

    The defendants found guilty today are:

    Christopher Paul George, 45, Rancho Cucamonga, a co-owner of 21th Century, [...]; Crystal Taiwana Buck, 40, of Long Beach, a sales “closer,” [...]; and Albert DiRoberto, 62, of Fullerton, who handled both sales and marketing – which included making a commercial for 21th Century and preparing talking points to respond to negative publicity [...].

    ***

    With [these] guilty verdicts, a total of 11 defendants linked to 21st Century have been convicted of federal fraud charges [...]

    During an 18-month period that began in the middle of 2008, a Rancho Cucamonga woman – Andrea Ramirez, 47, who previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud – 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.

    George was a co-owner of 21st Century who acted as a sales manager for the company, and 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 towards homeowners’ mortgages.

    ***

    Ramirez, 21st Century co-owner George and the other 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, according to the evidence presented at trial, Ramirez and other 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. Ramirez and other 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, Ramirez and other 21st Century employees would tell homeowners that 21st Century was using the fees paid by the homeowner to make mortgage payments, when in fact Ramirez, George and their co-defendants simply were pocketing the homeowners’ money.

    ***

    In addition to Ramirez and the three found guilty today, seven other defendants previously pleaded guilty. They are: Michael Bruce Bates, 64, of Moreno Valley; Michael Lewis Parker, 37, of Pomona; Catalina Deleon, 38, of Glendora; Hamid Reza Shalviri, 53, of Montebello; Yadira Garcia Padilla, 38, of Rancho Cucamonga; Mindy Sue Holt, 55, of San Bernardino; and Iris Melissa Pelayo, 45, of Upland.

    Ramirez and the other defendants who previously pleaded guilty are scheduled to be sentenced [...] over the coming months.

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