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5 OC Men Charged with Cheating Troubled Homeowners

March 4, 2012

This just makes me crazy when people are taken advantage of when they’re stuggling already!
5 OC men charged with cheating troubled homeowners

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Five California men have been charged with defrauding struggling homeowners who were seeking government mortgage help, federal authorities said.

The defendants, all from Orange County, took part in an increasingly “common hoax, preying on the most vulnerable homeowners, who were desperately seeking help,” “
Christy Romero, the inspector general who oversees the Troubled Asset Relief Program, announced in a statement Friday.The men started several fraudulent businesses between January 2009 and March 2012, promising homeowners they could secure loan modifications for an upfront fee that was refundable if no help was obtained. The men simply kept the money and didn’t get loan modifications, the statement said.After their arrests this week, the men were charged with at least seven counts of felony grand theft and various other charges including conspiracy to commit forgery and money laundering.A 2009 state law forbids any person or business to charge any advance or upfront fee for loan modification services.

The defendants are: Jacob J. Cunningham, 24, of Irvine; Justin D. Koelle, 23, of Costa Mesa; Andrew M. Phalen, 25, of Mission Viejo; Dominic A. Nolan, 30, of Irvine; and John D. Silva, 27, of Irvine.

They also are accused of regularly changing the names, phone numbers and addresses of the phony companies they operated, including CSFA Home Solutions, Mortgage Solution Specialists, Inc., CS & Associates and National Mortgage Relieve Center.

Investigators said Cunningham, Nolan and Silva operated a separate scheme in which they sent out forged “conditional approval” letters to homeowners with forged logos from CitiFiniancial or CitiMortgage. The letters allegedly promised potential victims a lower interest rate and included “escrow instructions” with directing the homeowners to deposit up to $4,600 directly into the defendant’s bank accounts.

The defendants were scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Santa Ana.

The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program investigates fraud, waste and abuse in connection with TARP.

Federal officials were assisted in the investigation by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Huntington Beach police, the California Department of Real Estate and several other state and local agencies.

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