Federal agents arrested 10 people, including one Glendora resident who allegedly worked at a Rancho Cucamonga-based business that offered fake loan modification programs to 4,000 financially distressed homeowners Wednesday morning.
The scam run out of 21st Century Real Estate Investment Corp. stole at least $7 million in fees from the victims, many of whom also lost their homes to foreclosure.
According to the indictment, Andrea Ramirez of Rancho Cucamonga operated 21st Century and other companies. During an 18-month period, 21st Century made false promises and guarantees to financially distressed homeowners. Employees in the company convinced homeowners to cease making their mortgage payments by making bogus claims that the company would be able to negotiate loan modifications from the homeowners’ mortgage lenders, while also falsely identifying 21st Century as a loan modification program sponsored by the United States government.
"The housing crisis provided fraud artists a new avenue to exploit people in financial distress," said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. in a statement. "Many of the victims in this alleged scheme were in desperate financial straits, and shameless financial predators promised relief they could not deliver. As a result, many homeowners went into foreclosure and now have to deal with the ramifications of losing their homes."
Ramirez, who also used the names Andrea Parker and Lisa Evans, and the other 21st Century employees contacted the homeowners through “cold calls, newspaper ads and mailings, and various 21st Century-controlled websites that advertised loan modification services.”
Once they contacted the distressed homeowners, according to the indictment, Ramirez and other 21st Century employees falsely told clients that they would be able to obtain new mortgages with lower interest rates through their government-sponsored program.
While convincing homeowners to cease making payments directly to their mortgage lenders and paying 21st Century instead, Ramirez and her employees were pocketing the money.
FBI agents arrested 10 named in the indictment, while one is currently a fugitive sought by authorities.
The 11 defendants named in the indictment are:
Andrea Ramirez, 44, of Rancho Cucamonga; Christopher Paul George, 42, Rancho Cucamonga, who surrendered this morning to authorities; Michael Bruce Bates, who also used the names Michael Bruce Myers and Robert Allen Castro, 61, of Moreno Valley; Crystal Taiwana Buck, 37, of Long Beach; Michael Lewis Parker, 34, of Pomona, Catalina Deleon, 35, of Glendora; Hamid Reza Shalviri, 50, Montebello, who self-surrendered this morning after being contacted by federal agents; Yadira Garcia Padilla, 35, of Rancho Cucamonga; Mindy Sue Holt, 53, of San Bernardino; Iris Melissa Pelayo, 42, of Upland; and Albert DiRoberto, 59, of Fullerton.
The defendants were arraigned Wednesday afternoon during their initial court appearances in United States District Court in Riverside.
All 11 defendants are charged with nine felony counts, including five counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.