SACRAMENTO – On November 19, 2020, the California Attorney General’s Office announced the arrest and arraignment of nine people on 136 felony counts for allegedly operating an advance fee mortgage relief scam that claimed to prevent the foreclosure of properties throughout Southern California.
The alleged scheme impacted multiple victims, resulted in a loss of approximately $6 million, and affected more than 200 properties; including properties with loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), as well as loan servicers Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae. Each defendant pleaded not guilty at their arraignment.
The arrests were the result of a joint investigation by the:
- California Department of Justice’s Division of Law Enforcement’s White-Collar Investigation Team
- Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG)
- United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG)
- Riverside County Sheriff’s Gang Impact Team assisted in the arrests
- and further assistance was provided by the United States Trustee Program.
“People who prey on homeowners experiencing tough financial times and who are in fear of losing their homes will be held accountable,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA). “ Thank you to the agents and investigators who put a stop to this predatory and criminal behavior!”
“Individuals who choose to prey on vulnerable Californians at risk of losing their homes will be held accountable,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute those who disregard the law in order to make a profit.”
On October 30, 2020, the following people were indicted by a grand jury in the Los Angeles County Superior Court for grand theft, filing of false or forged documents in a public office, identity theft, theft from an elder, and conspiracy to commit grand theft, as well as a special allegation for aggravated white-collar crime.
- Eduardo Toro,
- Ana Cecilia Toro,
- Veronica Romero (aka Veronica Marquez),
- Veronica Toro,
- Filiverto Gomez,
- Leticia Mora,
- Maria Gil,
- Emmanuel Lopez,
- and Gladys Velasquez.
Between 2010 and 2019, the defendants allegedly conspired to defraud lenders and homeowners of possession of residential properties. As part of the scheme, the group allegedly targeted distressed homeowners claiming they could stop the foreclosure of their home if they made monthly payments to the defendants. Instead, the defendants delayed foreclosures and eviction actions by filing allegedly fraudulent bankruptcy documents, false court documents, and false fractional interest grant deeds. They sent these documents to the servicers of mortgage loans, which would stop the foreclosure by invoking the bankruptcy “automatic stay.” Many homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure despite paying the defendants hundreds of dollars a month over the course of many years.
A copy of the indictment is available here.