LOS ANGELES- Continuing his crackdown on mortgage fraud, Attorney General
Edmund G. Brown Jr. late Thursday won a guilty plea from 22-year old Anna
Santos, who conned thousands of dollars from homeowners in a "cruel and
sophisticated" loan scam.
Santos will be formally sentenced on May 20 in Los Angeles Superior Court. She is expected to receive 2 years in prison.
"Santos conned thousands of dollars from homeowners trying to save their homes through a cruel and sophisticated scam," Brown said. "She held out hope, but in reality did not provide an ounce of loan modification, leaving her victims unprotected and in far worse straits."
Santos was arrested on March 12, 2009 after she used forged documents to convince victims to hand over thousands of dollars for non-existent loan modification services.
Santos obtained a fictitious business permit through the City of Los Angeles for "Payment Processing Department." She opened several bank accounts and two post office boxes under that name. She mailed flyers to vulnerable homeowners that appeared to be from victims' lenders or a government agency. The flyer used a large, bold header that read "Final Notice" and advised homeowners that they qualified for a special program to save their home from foreclosure.
After signing up for "loan modification services," homeowners then received what appeared to be "confirmation" that their lender had been notified. Many victims also received loan modification documents that appeared to be from their lender. These documents were all forgeries.
The victims were informed they had been placed in a "probationary" program and their mortgage payments should be submitted to "Payment Processing Department" and sent to a given post office box address. None of the payments were credited to the victims' home loans.
Payments sent to the post office box were retrieved by Ms. Santos and deposited into the bank accounts she had opened.
Santos targeted seniors and homeowners on the verge of foreclosure. It is believed that she scammed more than 100 victims. On average, victims lost approximately $3,000, at a time when they could not afford their mortgage, let alone additional fraudulent expenses.
Since taking office, Attorney General Brown has shut down loan modification and foreclosure rescue scams and fought companies that have misled vulnerable borrowers:
- In March 2009, Brown shut down Foreclosure Freedom, a fraudulent loan
modification company that continued to collect fees and mortgage payments from
dozens of homeowners without ever providing any loan modification services.
- In November 2008, Brown arrested three members of First Gov after the
company demanded an up-front fee, ranging from $1,500 to $5,000, to participate
in a loan-modification program and never renegotiated the loans.
- In October 2008, Brown announced an $8.68 billion settlement with
Countrywide Home Loans after the company deceived borrowers by misrepresenting
loan terms, loan payment increases, and borrowers' ability to afford loans.
- In May 2008, Brown shut down a team of scam artists that acquired deeds to
hundreds of homes in foreclosure by convincing desperate consumers to pay
$10,000 to place their property in a land grant, a phony and worthless real
estate document, and then tricked homeowners into signing over the deed to their
home and paying the company rent.
- In March 2008, Brown shut down Lifetime Financial, Nations Mortgage, Greenleaf Lending, Virtual Escrow, Olympic Escrow and Direct Credit Solutions after the companies ran a complex predatory lending scheme using bait and switch tactics to victimize thousands of homeowners, many of whom lost their homes.
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