California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced this week that 2 Southern California real estate professionals have been arrested and charged with more than 40 felony counts of fraud.
Joana Sosa, 54, and Zoila Ortega, 31, both of Gardena, California, have been charged with grand theft, burglary, unlawful collection of advance fees, tax evasion and conspiracy in a wide-ranging mortgage fraud scheme. Both suspects also face special enhancements for excessive taking and aggravated white-collar crime for losses to victims exceeding $350,000.
The defendants allegedly ran a criminal mortgage fraud enterprise mainly against Spanish-speaking victims and targeted members of their own Spanish-speaking community. Many of the victims were often referred by other family and friends.
Joana Sosa and Zoila Ortega are charged with 41 criminal felony counts. If convicted, they each face 36 years in prison, including fines and restitution. They were booked at the Los Angeles County Jail and remain in custody at this time.
From 2008 to 2010, Sosa and Ortega charged their victims thousands of dollars in up-front fees and monthly payments, promising to protect their victims from eviction by purchasing their property from their lender and becoming their new “lender.” Sosa and Ortega promised the victims a modified loan they could afford with the opportunity to buy back their home in the future. No services were rendered by Sosa and Ortega, resulting in consumers being evicted from their homes.
“As the mortgage crisis continues, we are seeing a troubling rise in fraud that targets struggling homeowners, including those with limited English language skills,” said Attorney General Harris. The predators targeting these victims are ruthless, and I am proud of our prosecutors and special agents for helping to bring them to justice.”
Another day, another arrest. California is cracking down and showing no tolerance for fraud. 36 years in federal prison is a big penalty for a mistake.