Two Plead Guilty in Mortgage Modification Scheme

Rachel Dollar —  September 16, 2015 — 1 Comment

Ped Abghari, a/k/a “Ted Allen,” 38, Irvine, California, and Justin Romano, 41, of Blue Point, New York, pled guilty for their roles in orchestrating a massive mortgage modification scheme that collectively defrauded over 8,000 homeowners out of over $18.5 million.  Abghari and Romano each pled guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and Abghari also pled guilty to misprision of a felony.  Romano pled on September 14, 2015, and Abghari pled on September 15, 2015, before U.S. District Judge. John F. Keenan.  

According to the Indictment, and statements made at the plea proceedings:

Abghari was a president and owner of an Irvine, California, company that offered purported mortgage modification services (the “Telemarketing Firm”).    Romano held himself out as the president of two purported law firms (the “Purported Law Firms”), based in Holbrook, New York, and Sayville, New York, which offered purported mortgage modification services in conjunction with the Telemarketing Firm.

From at least January 2011 through May 2014, through the Telemarketing Firm and the Purported Law Firms, Abghari and Romano, among others, perpetrated a scheme to defraud homeowners in dire financial straits who were seeking relief through HAMP and other mortgage relief programs.  Through a series of false and fraudulent representations, the defendants duped thousands of homeowners into paying thousands of dollars each in up-front fees in exchange for little or no service from the defendants or their companies.  In total, through their scheme, the defendants obtained over $18.5 million from more than 8,000 victim-homeowners throughout the United States.

Through the Telemarketing Firm, Abghari and others purchased thousands of “leads,” consisting of the name, address, and other contact information of homeowners who had fallen behind in making mortgage payments on their homes.  Abghari and others then caused the Telemarketing Firm to send, by e-mail, false and fraudulent solicitation letters to the homeowners they identified through the “leads,” misleading these homeowners into believing that their mortgages were already under review and that new, modified rates had already been contemplated and approved by the homeowners’ lenders. 

At the direction of Abghari and Romano, among others, the Telemarketing Firm’s telemarketer and sales people (the “Sales Staff”) called homeowners and/or answered telephone calls from homeowners who received the Telemarketing Firm’s fraudulent solicitations.  During these calls, in an effort to convince the homeowners to pay up-front fees, the defendants, through the Sales Staff, regularly caused various false and fraudulent representations to be made to homeowners, including that (a) the homeowners were retaining a “law firm” and an “attorney” who would complete the HAMP application and negotiate aggressively on the homeowners’ behalf with banks to modify the terms of the homeowners’ mortgages; (b) the defendants would “pre-approve” the homeowners for a guaranteed modification through HAMP; (c) the defendants employed underwriters who would calculate and guarantee the homeowners a new, modified rate and monthly mortgage payment; and (d) the defendants’ mortgage modification services were free, and the up-front fees paid by the homeowners would be paid directly to the homeowners’ lenders.  In truth and in fact, and as Abghari and Romano well knew, all of these representations were false and fraudulent. 

The remaining defendant charged for his role in the scheme, Dionysius Fiumano, a/k/a “D,” is scheduled to begin trial on December 9, 2015, before Judge Keenan. 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As they have now admitted, Ped Abghari and Justin Romano took advantage of thousands of homeowners under water with debt and in need of assistance from the Home Affordable Modification Program and similar mortgage modification programs.  Instead of helping to lift desperate homeowners out of debt, Abghari and Romano pushed them deeper in through exorbitant fees for mortgage modification services they never intended to provide.  More than 8,000 homeowners were victimized by the defendants’ greed, but thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, those victims now can find some comfort in knowing that those who preyed on their suffering have been forced to admit to their crimes.”

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward B. Diskant and Joshua A. Naftalis are in charge of the prosecution. 

 

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Rachel Dollar

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One response to Two Plead Guilty in Mortgage Modification Scheme

  1. I was a victim of this scheme. I have all my emails to this day of my correspondence with them. I remember talking to JUSTIN ROMANO on the phone. After I paid them the $3,000 I had a strange feeling that things were just not right. Too many RED flags! I had already gone through a HUD program in the past that helped me with a modification. Ocwen said I did not qualify for another one.

    I was desperate when this scheme came accross my computer screen (just in time) as my payment was about to go up really high. Making Home Affordable is what I think the page read with a picture of a little house….

    Ocwen could not understand anything I was doing. I told Ocwen that I was told to pay (By Sasha King and someone else, probably Justin Romano) a certain amount the following month for my mortgage payment. I remember asking one of the guys “How can you tell me what to pay when Ocwen doesn’t know anything about this. Oh, it ‘s ok ” he said. Just pay what I am telling you. Ocwen had no idea what I was talking about.

    After a few months these scammers told me that if I want a modification with Ocwen that I need to stop making my payments all together. I stopped making my payments. Next thing you know my house is going to be auctioned off, foreclosure letters, and you name it.

    Lots of stress. Took a serious toll on my health too!

    To this day I am making monthly payments to Ocwen paying the fees for the foreclosure process (paperwork). I wonder if I have a case with Ocwen. Someone has to be responsible for paying the foreclosure processing (paperwork) I don’t think It should be me.

    When I first had contact with these scammers they were in Southern CA and eventually I was talking to people on the east coast. The name of the company was constantly changing. RMA Legal Network, Professional Legal Network, Attorney’s Legal Network, and Attorney’s Alliance Union. I was getting confused and of course seeing More RED. The emails always reflected a new company!

    The strange thing is after almost 1 year (12 months of this nightmare) a girl name Tiffany Clark (who was in New York I believe) and with the scammers called me. I believe it was January 2013. She said “I have good news for you” (I thought I was going to pass out). 12 months of beating myself up for getting involved with this scam. Process starting in Jan. 2012.

    She said Ocwen (my loan servicer) is going to take so much off the principal and cut my rate in half. It’s called the SAM. Shared Appreciating Mortgage. I could not believe my ears. It was true. That was my new modification.

    I did receive a letter from the Department of Justice about these people I hope I can recoup some of my money.

    The confusing part is that I did end up getting help from Ocwen in the end.?? Not sure what to think of all this.

    Thank you,
    Diane Daynes

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