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Ronald Rodis, 51, Irvine, California, a former attorney, pled guiltyto one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for his role in a multi-million dollar fraudulent mortgage modification scheme.

Rodis admitted that he participated in a scheme with several co-conspirators – Bryan D’Antonio, Charles Wayne Farris and others – to induce homeowners to pay between $3,500 and $5,500 for the services of the Rodis Law Group (RLG). Between October 2008 and June 2009, Rodis and his co-conspirators made numerous misrepresentations regarding the RLG’s ability to negotiate loan modifications from the homeowners’ mortgage lenders.

Rodis recorded radio advertisements encouraging struggling homeowners to call RLG. In the ads, Rodis falsely claimed that RLG consisted of “a team of experienced attorneys” who were “highly skilled in negotiating lower interest rates and even lowering your principal balance.” In fact, RLG was a telemarketing operation that never had a team of experienced attorneys. During much of the scheme, Rodis was the only attorney at RLG.

This defendant posed as an accomplished attorney who could provide quality legal services – and hope – to struggling homeowners,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “But the promises were bogus. Rodis Law Group made few efforts to assist homeowners, who paid thousands of dollars in last-ditch attempts to keep their homes, many of which entered foreclosure.”

When homeowners called RLG, telemarketers made misrepresentations to convince them to hire RLG. For example, telemarketers stated that RLG had been in business for 11 years, when in fact it had only opened in October 2008. They falsely stated that RLG routinely obtained positive results for homeowners, including lower monthly payments, reductions in principal balance and lower interest rates. In fact, positive results were rarely achieved for any RLG clients. Telemarketers also falsely reiterated that homeowners would have a team of attorneys and real estate professionals assigned to their case.

In a plea agreement filed in federal court, Rodis admitted that the RLG scheme fraudulently obtained approximately $6 million from more than 1,500 victims.

It is an unfortunate truth that people often take advantage of a crisis for personal gain,” said Assistant Director in Charge Deirdre Fike of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The Rodis Law Group was among the worst type of scammers, trying to take advantage of homeowners already experiencing profound heartache in the face of potential foreclosure. The FBI will not tolerate this kind of criminal behavior. I truly hope that when the next financial crisis arises, members of the public take a moment to look into claims that sound too good to be true, even if those claims are made by attorneys, before would-be clients become victims.”

United States District Judge David O. Carter accepted the plea and is scheduled to sentence Rodis on February 27, 2017

At the height of the mortgage crisis, this defendant and his co-conspirators preyed on desperate homeowners with a series of lies and false promises,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will continue to prosecute individuals who target vulnerable victims for profit.”

The two co-defendants in the case –D’Antonio and Farris – are each charged with conspiracy and nine counts of wire fraud. Each of these counts carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. In addition, D’Antonio is charged with 13 counts of criminal contempt for violating a 2001 federal court order which permanently banned D’Antonio from participating in future telemarketing operations. Criminal contempt of court has no statutory maximum penalty.

D’Antonio and Farris are scheduled to go on trial on September 20.

This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph T. McNally and DOJ Trial Attorney John W. Burke of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.

 

Michelle M. Borzillo, 59, Bristow, Virginia, a former attorney with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was sentenced  to 12 months and one day in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, for defrauding Wells Fargo Bank in connection with the sham short sale of her home to her live-in boyfriend.  She was also ordered to pay $288,497 in restitution and to forfeit the proceeds of her offense.

Borzillo pleaded guilty on November 17, 2015 to committing bank fraud.  According to court documents, the defendant was a senior attorney at the FDIC until September 2014.  In 2007, she purchased a home in Nokesville, Virginia, for $850,000, with mortgages totaling $807,500 from Wells Fargo Bank.  In 2013, she engineered the short sale of her Nokesville home to her boyfriend, who had been living with her at the property for several years.  Continue Reading…

Nathan E. Hardwick IV, 50, formerly of Atlanta, Georgia, and Asha R. Maurya, 40, Atlanta, Georgia, were indicted on charges of with conspiracy, wire fraud, and related crimes in connection with Hardwick’s alleged theft of over $20 million from the attorney escrow accounts and operating accounts of Morris Hardwick Schneider and LandCastle Title, an Atlanta-based law firm and title agency in which Hardwick and Maurya once served as top executives.  In addition to charges against Maurya for assisting with Hardwick’s theft, the indictment also charges Maurya with stealing approximately $900,000 from the firm’s accounts to pay her own personal expenses. Continue Reading…

Angela M. Blythe, attorney, 52, Oakland, Maryland, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiring to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and two counts of making a false statement to a bank.  Blythe was also ordered to forfeit $696,517 and pay restitution of $948,203.25. Blythe was convicted by a federal jury on October 9, 2015, after a nine day trial

Blythe was an attorney licensed to practice in Maryland and West Virginia, with an office in Oakland, Maryland.  She was a settlement attorney in real estate transactions.            Continue Reading…

Stephen Barry Ruza, attorney, 52, Orchard Lake, Michigan, former owner of Home Legal Group Inc., was sentenced to 12 months in Oakland County Jail, followed by five years of probation on one felony count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise.  Ruza pleaded guilty to the charges of defrauding his victims with a fake mortgage assistance scheme in September, 2015.

At the time of sentencing, Ruza was ordered to pay $445,895.16 in restitution to the first 297 of his victims. Under stipulations of his plea deal, Ruza could be ordered to pay hundreds of thousands more in restitution based on the final number of victims. That count is still being determined. Continue Reading…

Louis Marandola, 41, attorney, Providence, Rhode Island; Brian R. McCaffrey, 38, licensed loan originator, East Greenwich, Rhode Island; Raffaele M. Marziale, 41, former loan officer, Bristol, Rhode Island; Lauren Sienko, 33, loan processor, Rehoboth, Massachusetts; Gina M. Ronci Mohamed, 45, licensed real estate agent, Lincoln, Rhode Island; and Edwin Rodriguez, 35,  real estate investor, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, were charged in a 22-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Providence, Rhode Island with allegedly participating in a conspiracy to obtain money they were not entitled to from financial institutions and individuals through mortgage loans, residential property sales and fees. Continue Reading…

Dahianara Moran, 40, Methuen, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud for to participating in a conspiracy to defraud banks and mortgage companies by engaging in sham “short” sales of residential properties in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts.

Moran conspired with others – including a Methuen loan officer and a Haverhill real estate agent who were not identified in the charging document – to defraud various banks via bogus short sales of homes in Haverhill, MassachusettsLawrence, Massachusetts, and Methuen, Massachusetts. Continue Reading…

Angela M. Blythe, attorney, 51, Oakland, Maryland, was convicted by a federal jury of conspiring to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and two counts of making a false statement to a bank.  Blythe was an attorney licensed to practice in Maryland and West Virginia, with an office in Oakland, Maryland.  She was a settlement attorney in real estate transactions.

According to evidence presented at the nine day trial, from 2000 to 2006, Blythe prepared deeds, mortgages and notes using false identities provided by her co-conspirator.  Blythe recorded those fraudulent documents in Garrett County, Maryland and Preston County, West Virginia, which concealed her co-conspirator’s ownership of the properties.  On at least seven occasions, Blythe also conducted property settlements in which her co-conspirator participated as buyer, seller and/or borrower using the false identities, which Blythe concealed from the lenders. Blythe failed to conduct the settlement transactions as described on the settlement statements and paid over the seller’s proceeds as her co-conspirator directed. Continue Reading…

Michael R. Anderson, 46, attorney, Framingham, Massachusetts, was sentenced to two years in prison, two years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $11,048,212 in restitution and forfeit $7,413,712 in connection with a multi-year, multi-property mortgage fraud scheme in Dorchester and Roxbury, Massachusetts.  In January 2011, Anderson pleaded guilty to sixteen counts of wire fraud, nine counts of bank fraud, and two counts of engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.   Continue Reading…

Christopher Brecciano, 37, of Stamford, Connecticut was sentenced  to 14 months of imprisonment, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiring to defraud financial institutions through an extensive mortgage fraud scheme that involved dozens of properties in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

According to court documents and statements made in court, between 2006 and 2010, Brecciano, while working as an associate at a Stamford law firm, participated in mortgage fraud conspiracy that involved the purchase of numerous single and multi-family properties, primarily in Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford, Connecticut. Brecciano acted as a closing attorney for at least 50 mortgage loan transactions in which materially false information was provided to mortgage lenders by Brecciano or his co-conspirators. The fraudulent information included false verifications of down payments for real estate transactions, false deeds, and false HUD-1 Forms. In many of the transactions, Brecciano knew that the borrower was a “straw buyer,” and that other individuals intended to control the property and collect rent from the property. In many transactions, Brecciano distributed mortgage loan funds to the straw buyer and other co-conspirators at the closing. Continue Reading…