Fugitive Sought in Mortgage Fraud Scheme

Let’s find this guy and strike a blow for all the honest brokers, agents and real estate professionals in California.

By Marilyn Kalfus
Orange County Register

Law enforcement officials are looking for the owner of a Costa Mesa-based mortgage refinance company and escrow business who is charged in a loan modification scheme that preyed on victims in California and other states.

Prosecutors say they’ve also found victims in Maryland, Minnesota, Florida, and Washington.

James Toufic Assali, 36, of Irvine, is charged with 18 felony counts of grand theft, three felony counts of grand theft of an adult over 65, four felony counts of money laundering, and two felony counts of filing a false tax return.

There are sentencing enhancements for money laundering exceeding $50,000. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 23 years in state prison.

An arrest warrant was issued May 26, 2011, for Assali, who is believed to be either in California or Vermont, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s office.

Prosecutors say that Asssali owns Meredian Financial Corporation (Meredian) and an escrow business, Fortis Title Solutions, both operating out of Costa Mesa.

He’s accused of soliciting Meredian’s home loan ratelock and modification services for a fee ranging from $750 up to $10,000.

According to the press release, Assali is accused of:

* Collecting a fee from victims to lock in a lower interest rate to refinance their home or modify their home loan, and promising to refund the fee at the close of escrow.
* Failing to complete a majority of home loan modifications or refinancing services and refusing to issue the promised refunds.
* Electronically transferring funds from his business bank account to his personal account totaling more than $100,000 annually in both 2008 and 2009, filing false tax returns in 2008 and 2009, and underreporting his compensation by more than $200,000. As a result, he’s accused of owing more than $18,000 in unpaid taxes for filing false returns in 2008 and 2009.

The District Attorney’s office began investigating the case after getting complaints. The California Franchise Tax Board assisted in the investigation into the filing of false tax returns.

Anyone who has seen him or knows his whereabouts or believes they have been a victim should contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Eric Ackerlind at (714) 347-8691.