LOS ANGELES – City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced a multi-pronged effort to prevent loan modification scams and to help homeowners who face losing their homes. Feuer’s efforts include hosting two symposiums later this month in the San Fernando Valley and South Los Angeles as part of a public awareness campaign on the loan modification process and how to avoid scams. The City Attorney also announced the filing of two criminal cases as part of his office’s aggressive work to stop loan modification scam artists.
“Even as we emerge from the foreclosure crisis, struggling homeowners remain targets for loan modification scams," said Feuer. “We need to do everything we can to empower them and prevent them from being victimized.”
Over 2,000 homeowners in Los Angeles were in default on their mortgage in 2015.
The symposiums, in the San Fernando Valley (January 23rd, 9:30 a.m., at Van Nuys High School) and South Los Angeles (January 30th, 9:30 a.m., at South LA Sports Activity Center), will include presentations on how to avoid loan modification scams and navigate the loan modification process. Resource fairs including multiple HUD-Approved housing counseling agencies and legal aid organizations will be also be conducted after the presentations.
“The DBO Mortgage Education and Outreach Program partners with community stakeholders and focuses on the California communities hardest hit by the housing market crash,” said Tom Dresslar, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, Department of Business Oversight (DBO). “Our program’s mission is to support homeownership and inform mortgage borrowers of their rights. We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this important event sponsored by the City Attorney’s Office.”
DBO provided funds for the symposiums and additional outreach.
Feuer also gave homeowners tips to avoid loan modification scams:
• Do not pay up front fees for services
• Do not make payments to individuals other than their lender or loan servicer
• Never transfer title to those promising loan modification.
Feuer announced filing criminal charges against two defendants alleging loan modification scams:
Jorge Bolanos Santizo was charged with three criminal counts including charging upfront fees for loan modification services, grand theft, and practicing without a license. If convicted Santizo could face up to two years and six months in jail and $31,000 in fines. Arraignment is scheduled for January 19, 2016.
In October 2011, Santizo and his company California Homes was ordered to refrain from engaging in loan modification services after bring the subject of an investigation by the Department of Real Estate into allegations the company was allegedly taking upfront fees from homeowners solicited through Spanish language radio and conducting loan modifications without a license. In April 2014, Santizo again allegedly began soliciting for loan modification services and collected $1,600 in upfront fees from a victim without performing any work. Santizo continues to be unlicensed.
Eblin Balver was convicted of four counts of grand theft and one count of practicing law without a license and was placed on 60 months of probation in June 2013. As a condition of probation, Balver was ordered to repay $118,656 to victims and not act as a foreclosure consultant. In July 2013, Balver allegedly solicited another victim of a loan modification scam and collected $3,450 for services. The victim allegedly did not receive any documentation or receipts. In January 2014, Balver allegedly requested and was provided an additional $5,100 by the victim to continue with the case. The victim ultimately lost his house to foreclosure and never received a refund from Balver.
The City Attorney’s Office has filed a motion to revoke Balver’s probation following an investigation by the Department of Consumer Affairs. A hearing is scheduled for February 1, 2016. Balvier’s total remaining exposure for the original conviction is five years in county jail.