Defendants offered bogus loan modification assistance to struggling homeowners
Three defendants were named in a federal indictment unsealed, following an investigation by the FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation.
Bryan D’Antonio, 47, of Brea, California, and Charles Wayne Farris, 53, of Aliso Viejo, California, were arrested by federal agents for allegedly operating businesses (The Rodis Law Group and America’s Law Group) that offered bogus loan modification assistance to homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments.
Attorney Ronald Rodis, 49, of Irvine, California, surrendered himself to federal agents on charges that he lent his name and the law license he formerly possessed to, the fraudulent operation.
Allegedly, during a nine-month period beginning in October 2008, the Rodis Law Group and America’s Law Group defrauded more than 1,800 financially distressed homeowners by making false promises and guarantees regarding the companies’ ability to negotiate loan modifications from mortgage lenders. Additionally, they falsely represented that a “team of attorneys” would represent the homeowners in advising homeowners to cease making their mortgage payments. Homeowners lost a total of at least $12 million in fees paid to the companies. Many homeowners also lost their homes to foreclosure.
“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.
Advertised loan modification assistance on nationwide radio stations
The companies advertised loan modification assistance on nationwide radio stations. According to the indictment, many of these radio advertisements featured Rodis’ own voice informing 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 on behalf of the homeowners.
Sales staff was hired and trained by Farris and D’Antonioto allegedly tell interested homeowners that Rodis Law Group was “100 percent successful,” “routinely lowered monthly payments,” and obtained reduced principal balances. After homeowners paid the fee of several thousand dollars, little to no effort was made to obtain the alleged loan modifications. And they were often unable to get a hold of anyone at either company when they tried to get updates on the status of their cases.
D’Antonio, Farris, and Rodis are each charged with 10 felony counts comprised of nine counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. Each of these carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment. Additionally, D’Antonio is charged with 13 counts of criminal contempt for violating the 2001 court order.