Prison Sentence For Advance Fees to Distressed Homeowners

Rachel Dollar —  April 8, 2016 — Leave a comment

Ligia Sandoval Spafford (Sandoval), 48, Roseville, California, was sentenced  by U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley to two years and three months in prison for a scheme to defraud distressed homeowners Sandoval was ordered to self-surrender on June 9, 2016.

Sandoval paid $115,065.00 in restitution, the full amount of restitution ordered by the Court, to compensate the victims for the losses that they incurred as a result from this fraud scheme. In February 2015, Sandoval and her then husband, Martin Wayne Flanders, 51, Roseville, California, pleaded guilty to mail fraud for the fraud scheme. On October 29, 2015, Flanders was sentenced to six years and five months in prison.

In sentencing, Judge Nunley stated: “She knew what was going on and enticed these people to become part of this scheme. They trusted her. … She ruined some peoples’ lives. That she paid restitution does not do anything to take away from the anxiety and fear they [the victims] had at the time that this was occurring. These victims were devastated.

According to court documents, between 2008 and 2010, Flanders charged clients advance fees in exchange for a number of financial services, including loan modifications, mortgage loan audits, credit repair, debt relief, bankruptcy filings, and a program to sell homes to “investors” with a rent-to-own option. Sandoval and Flanders marketed these services to economically distressed homeowners with particular emphasis on those who were Spanish speakers. Sandoval, a Spanish-speaker, promoted the services she and Flanders, who was not a fluent Spanish speaker, offered during a radio program that aired twice weekly on a Bay Area Spanish‑language Christian radio station, Radio Luz. Sandoval who was a licensed real estate agent, further assisted Flanders in the fraud scheme by interacting with and explaining the services to Spanish-speaking clients. The services offered by Flanders and Sandoval were also advertised on a Spanish-language television station, Univision, and in Spanish-language magazines. About 98 percent of the defendants’ clients were of Hispanic descent, some of whom spoke little to no English.

Sandoval and Flanders made numerous false statements to investors as to the success of the programs being offered or refunds that would be available if the programs were not successful. “Ghost offers” – i.e., fictitious offers to purchase the victim’s property through short sale – and “skeleton bankruptcies” – i.e., sham bankruptcy petitions that were quickly dismissed by the bankruptcy court – were also used by Sandoval or Flanders to try to stall the foreclosure process. At least 25 to 30 individuals paid for services and did not receive them or did not receive refunds when the programs failed to deliver as promised. The total loss to the victims is at least $115,000. Some homeowners who were not able to obtain relief were foreclosed upon by their lenders.

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced the sentence.The case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd A. Pickles and Shelley Weger prosecuted the case.

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Rachel Dollar

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