Three face decades in prison for multimillion-dollar modification fraud

by Ryan Smith15 Jun 2015
Three Californians have been convicted for their roles in a mortgage modification scam that bilked victims out of more than $7 million.

The three were associated with a telemarketing business that operated under a variety of names, including 21st Century Legal Services. According to Christy Romero, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), the business scammed more than 4,000 homeowners across the country, many of whom lost their homes to foreclosure.

The co-owner of 21st Century, 45-year-old Christopher Paul George, was found guilty of one count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution, three counts of wire fraud, two counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, and one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Crystal Taiwana Buck, 40, a sales closer, was found guilty of three counts of mail fraud. Albert DiROberto, 62, a sales and marketing employee, was convicted of one count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution and two counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution.

According to Romero, 21st Century defrauded distressed homeowners by lying about its ability to negotiate home loan modifications. The company made “numerous misrepresentations” to its victims, including falsely stating that it was operating a government-sponsored loan modification program. The company also told homeowners that payments made to the company would go to their mortgages. Victims were usually told to stop communicating with or sending payments to their mortgage lenders. In fact, the fees homeowners were told were going toward their mortgage payments were simply being pocketed by George and his co-defendants.

“The defendants’ sole goal was getting money from homeowners, and they did and said whatever it took to make that happen,” Romero said. “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.”

“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.”

The three defendants are scheduled to be sentenced in August. George faces up to 170 years in federal prison, Buck up to 60 and DiRoberto up to 90. The guilty verdicts bring the number convicted in connection with 21st Century up to 11.


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