Father & Son Charged with Pushing “Qualified Written Requests” and “Mortgage Audit” Scams

fraudJames Timothy Malis, 66 and son Nicholas Malis, 37, were indicted by a grand jury on several felonies in connection with their operation of a mortgage fraud scam. A 13 count indictment for each defendant was returned by a grand jury charging the defendants. 

Operating under the name Home Defense Foundation (HDF) and Legacy Group International (LG International), Nicholas and James Malis allegedly pushed “qualified written requests” (under RESPA laws) and “real estate mortgage investment conduit investigations” (such a “loan audits” and “securitization audits”) promising clients these services would uncover various violations, including the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), the Truth in Lending Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and/or the Fair Debts Collections Practices Act. 

The pair allegedly claimed that upon uncovering these violations clients would be entitled to a legal remedy resulting in either a reduction of their loan to the current market value and to the current market interest rate or an award of damages. Both allegedly claimed that HDF and LG were affiliated with a network of attorneys” that would represent clients in either an individual lawsuit or in a multi joinder plaintiff lawsuit against clients’ lenders.


Federal Agents Arrest Operators of an “Attorney Backed” Loan Modification Scam in California

rodisBryan D’Antonio, 47, Brea, California, and Charles Wayne Farris, 53, Aliso Viejo, California, were arrested for operating the Rodis Law Group and America’s Law Group, businesses that allegedly offered bogus loan modification assistance to struggling homeowners. Ronald Rodis, 49, Irvine, California, an attorney, surrendered to federal agents on charges alleging that he participated in, and lent his name and the law license he formerly possessed to, the fraudulent operation. 

All three defendants were named in a federal indictment unsealed following an investigation by the FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation. 

According to the indictment, as a result of the scheme run by D’Antonio, Farris, and Rodis, more than 1,800 financially distressed homeowners lost a total of at least $12 million in fees they paid to the companies. Many homeowners also lost their homes to foreclosure. During a nine-month period that began in October 2008, the Rodis Law Group and America’s Law Group allegedly defrauded distressed homeowners by making false promises and guarantees regarding the companies’ ability to negotiate loan modifications from the homeowners’ mortgage lenders, falsely representing that a “team of attorneys” would represent the homeowners and advising homeowners to cease making their mortgage payments. 

The Rodis Law Group, and its successor company, America’s Law Group, allegedly advertised loan modification assistance on radio stations nationwide. According to the indictment, many of these radio advertisements featured Rodis’ voice telling homeowners that a “team of experienced attorneys” who were “highly skilled in negotiating lower interest rates and even lowering your principal balance” would negotiate with mortgage lenders. Sales staff hired and trained by Farris and D’Antonio allegedly told interested homeowners that Rodis Law Group was “100 percent successful,” “routinely lowered monthly payments,” and obtained reduced principal balances. According to the indictment, once the defendants and their co-conspirators convinced homeowners to pay a fee of several thousand dollars, little to no effort was made to obtain loan modifications. After making their payments, homeowners who tried to get updates on the status of their cases were often unable to contact anyone at either company. 

D’Antonio, Farris, and Rodis are each charged with 10 felony counts—nine counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. Each of these counts carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment.  

“These arrests send a strong message to those who would prey on vulnerable homeowners during these tough financial times,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery. “If you defraud homeowners, you will be found and brought to justice.” 

“Posing as successful lawyers, these defendants offered struggling homeowners false hopes and bogus promises of quality legal representation,” said U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California André Birotte, Jr. “The market offering loan modifications is rife with fraud, which is why we have redoubled our efforts to investigate and prosecute those who engage in financial crimes that target distressed homeowners.” 

“The unconscionable act of scamming homeowners already facing foreclosure is far too common,” said Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office Bill Lewis. “This indictment should send a clear message to anyone contemplating similar crimes and should also remind potential victims to be cautious before paying fees to those offering financial rescue, regardless of whether the solicitor holds a law degree.”


California Lawyer Disbarred for Loan Modification Fraud

loan-mod-scamAttorney Stephen Siringoringo, 32, Garden Grove, California, bar # 264161, has been disbarred for defrauding homeowners in a loan modification scam. Finding that he posed a “substantial threat” to his clients and the public, and continued to engage in unlawful activities, the State Bar Court has ordered that Siringoringo be prohibited from practicing law. 

Siringoringo was placed on inactive status July 29, 2013, pending the outcome of a disciplinary case against him. Siringoringo was in the midst of a trial for 25 counts of misconduct tied to loan modification matters and faces additional charges in connection with 14 other cases outlined in the court’s decision and order of inactive enrollment. 

State Bar Court Judge Richard A. Honn wrote that Siringoringo’s business model violated Civil Code section 2944.7, which prohibits loan modification professionals – both attorneys and non-attorneys – from charging fees before they have performed all the services that they were contracted for. 

According to Honn, the Siringoringo Law Firm set up retainer agreements with its clients whereby the loan modification work would be split into stages. In stage one and two – which involved pre-qualification and completing a loan modification application – clients would be charged between $2,000 and $3,500. In stage 3, during which the firm was to submit the loan modification application and purportedly negotiate with the lender, clients were charged $495 every 30 days while awaiting the lender’s decision. 

Siringoringo is the third attorney this year that the State Bar Court has placed on involuntary inactive status for alleged misconduct. In May 2013, the court placed Los Angeles attorney Gene Wook Choe, 50, [bar # 187704] on involuntary inactive status for alleged misconduct in loan modification matters similar to the allegations against Siringoringo. 

In June 2013, the court granted the State Bar’s application to involuntarily enroll Hal Erwin Wright [bar # 157814] as an inactive member. Wright, 58, Davis, California, has been charged with multiple acts of misconduct involving moral turpitude and dishonesty, including misappropriation of funds.


Search Warrants Served in Loan Modification Scam run by a California Attorney

scam-folderSiringoringo Law Firm and Clausen & Cobb Management Company, Inc.are the subjects of search warrants, which have been served on five separate locations in the California counties of Orange and San Bernardino, in response to an alleged multi-million dollar loan modification scam.

Attorney Stephen Siringoringo and his wife Kendi Smith-Siringoringo were taken into custody and booked by officers from the Westminster Police Department. Since this is an ongoing investigation, no further details will be released at this time. Supervising Investigator Maurice Landrum helped coordinate the investigation. 

If you are a homeowner living in San Bernardino County and believe that you have been the victim of a loan modification scam carried out by the Siringoringo Law Firm, please contact the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office Real Estate Fraud Division at (909) 891-3519.


Feds arrest California real estate agent accused of short-sale fraud

livermoreFederal authorities arrested a California real estate agent accused of helping a homeowner commit fraud in the short-sale of his home. Minerva Sanchez, 47, was arrested at her Fremont home, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento. She was later arraigned in San Jose federal court, where she pleaded not guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud. A federal grand jury in Fresno indicted Sanchez on Dec. 19.

In March 2010, Sanchez represented Agustin Simon, 52, in the sale of his home. The homeowner agreed to sell the home to a person that would assist in letting Simon stay in the home and/or rent it back after the short sale was complete. The prosecutors said Sanchez and Simon falsely claimed that the transaction was “arm’s length,” and that they made false statements about Simon’s assets and ownership of other real estate. Sanchez and Simon knew that Simon was not selling the home to an unrelated party and that the transaction was an attempt to allow Simon to stay in the home as a renter or to allow the later repurchase of the home by Simon. 

With Sanchez’s knowledge, Simon gave the new buyer funds to assist in the purchase of the home in the short sale. As a result of the alleged scheme, the Bank suffered a loss of $247,000 and Freddie Mac lost $107,348. If convicted, Sanchez faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine. 

On June 10, Simon pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud in connection with the alleged short-sale scheme. He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 6.