04/21/2017 02:14 PM EDT
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Three co-conspirators who operated a nationwide, multi-year “home mortgage modification” fraud that scammed hundreds of victims out of at least $10 million were convicted today by a federal jury.
“These defendants scammed hundreds of individuals and families who were trying desperately to save their homes,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Their crimes were rooted in dishonesty and greed, and they shamelessly enriched themselves at their victims’ expense. I am very pleased with the convictions and want to commend the efforts of the Assistant United States Attorneys and our investigative partners for their terrific work on this important and complex case.”
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Sammy Araya, Michael Henderson, and Jen Seko, all from the greater Los Angeles area, operated a large-scale “home mortgage modification” scam that victimized vulnerable individuals and families across the country for several years. The conspirators sent targeted mass mailers to homeowners facing foreclosure through Seko’s company, Seko Direct Marketing. The mailers referenced real federal programs designed to help struggling homeowners, such as the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), and were titled “Notice of HUD Relief,” “Notice of Mortgage Relief,” and “New HAMP Benefits,” among other misleading titles. The mailers listed various toll-free telephone numbers for the homeowners to call for assistance. When a victim homeowner who had been solicited via a mass mailing called the toll-free number listed on the mailer, a member of the conspiracy posing as a “customer service representative” would answer the phone and collect financial information from the victim, as well as inquire about the victim’s mortgage and how far behind the victim was on his or her mortgage payments. The victims were told the information would be reviewed to determine if they qualified for a mortgage modification. Instead, the information was used by the conspirators to determine how much money could be stolen from the victim. Henderson served as one of the purported “customer service representatives” and helped to distribute the money collected by the scam, while Araya was the mastermind and principal beneficiary of the entire fraudulent operation…
03/27/2017 06:47 AM EDT
BOSTON – A Methuen attorney and a Methuen loan officer pleaded guilty yesterday in connection with a sweeping conspiracy to defraud banks and mortgage companies by engaging in sham “short” sales of residential properties in Merrimack Valley. Separately, a Methuen real estate broker was arrested on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, on related charges, and a Dunstable attorney was sentenced after pleading guilty to participating in the same conspiracy.
Jasmin Polanco, 37, a real estate closing attorney, and Vanessa Ricci, 40, a mortgage loan officer, each pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. U.S. District Court Senior Judge Douglas P. Woodlock scheduled Ricci’s sentencing for June 22, 2017. Polanco’s sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Separately, a real estate broker from Methuen, Greisy Jimenez, 49, was indicted this week on two counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with the same alleged scheme. In addition, on March 22, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel sentenced Hyacinth Bellerose, 51, a real estate closing attorney from Dunstable, to time served and one year of supervised release to be served in home detention…