Fraud, scam, kickback – these terms are constantly flooding our news, and while the criminals may get caught, there seems to be an endless supply of new ones stepping into their predecessor’s shoes. The most recent case involves three California residents who are facing between 60 and 170 years in federal prison for defrauding thousands of homeowners out of millions in a scam dating back to 2008, many of whom lost their homes to foreclosure. Now, a total of 11 individuals linked to 21st Century have been convicted of federal charges as a result of an investigation, all of whom are awaiting sentencing later this year.
Christopher Paul George, 45, of Rancho Cucamonga; Crystal Taiwana Buck, 40, of Long Beach; and Albert DiRoberto, 62, of Fullerton; were recently convicted for their roles in a scheme that offered phony mortgage modifications to thousands of financially distressed homeowners who lost more than $7 million when they paid for services, including loan modifications, that were never provided, according to a release from the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
According to SIGTARP, George, Buck and DiRoberto were employees of a California-based telemarketing operation known under a series of names, including 21st Century Legal Services, Inc.
During an 18-month period that began in the middle of 2008, 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, SIGTARP said.
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 lenders and to stop making their mortgage payments.
According to SIGTARP, Ramirez and other 21st Century employees would, on occasion, 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 were simply pocketing the homeowners’ money.
“The defendants’ sole goal was getting money from homeowners, and they did and said whatever it took to make that happen,” Romero continued. “SIGTARP and our law enforcement partners will put an end to schemes that prey on struggling homeowners by falsely claiming to be associated with TARP’s housing programs, and perpetrators of such schemes will be brought to justice for their crimes.”
In addition to Ramirez, George, Buck and DiRoberto, seven other California residents previously pleaded guilty for their involvement in the scheme.
“Members of the conspiracy preyed upon homeowners who were in desperate financial straits by making promises they had no intention of keeping,” said Acting United States Attorney Stephanie Yonekura. “The impact on victim homeowners across the country was severe, and it’s gratifying to see justice served in this case.”
Has anyone you know fallen victim to 21st Century, or other similar scams? What needs to change to prohibit scams like this in the future?
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