Five people were indicted and two more have pleaded guilty in a multimillion-dollar mortgage scheme that claimed more than 500 victims, according to the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Special Inspector General Christy Romero said Thursday that a federal grand jury had indicted Guy Samuel, who claimed to provide mortgage modification services, and four of Samuel’s employees: Anthony Blackwell, Angel Gonzalez, Jonathan Lyons and Aren Goldfaden. Two other men, Scott Schreiber and Darrell Keys, have already entered guilty pleas for their participation in the scam.
“Samuel and his co-conspirators stand charged with ripping off struggling homeowners desperately trying to keep a roof over their heads in the midst of the nation’s housing crisis,” Romero said. “They allegedly claimed their ‘business’ was affiliated with TARP’s housing program, HAMP, and instructed victims to stop paying their mortgages immediately, transfer thousands of dollars in upfront frees to their company in exchange for false promises of a guaranteed mortgage modification, and cease all communication with their mortgage lenders.”
Prosecutors said that the defendants swindled more than 500 homeowners across the country out of $2.3 million. When the victims realized that Samuels and the others had done no work to modify their loans, Samuels allegedly refused to provide refunds.
“Instead, Samuel purportedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on vacations, entertainment, and personal expenses,” Romero said. “…Let this be a warning to anyone allegedly engaged in fraud related to TARP; if guilty, you will be held accountable and brought to justice by SIGTARP and our law enforcement partners.”
According to the indictment, the defendants operated from January of 2009 to July of 2011 as a mortgage modification company. They allegedly targeted homeowners in danger of defaulting on their mortgages and promised to refinance the mortgages at lower interest rates.
“Despite the defendants’ claims, however, the Mortgage Modification Companies delivered little or no service to their customers, diverting most, if not all, of the customers’ payments to the Mortgage Modification Companies’ owners and employees,” according to a SIGTARP release.
The defendants also allegedly claimed to be affiliated with the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), a federal program that is available free of charge to struggling homeowners.
“As alleged, these defendants told one lie after another, purporting to help struggling homeowners looking for an end to their financial troubles but instead defrauding them out of millions,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “This office has zero tolerance for those who would target already distressed borrowers in hopes of turning a profit at their expense, and we will continue to work to hold these and like-minded defendants accountable.”