An Orange County, California man pleaded guilty yesterday to defrauding more than 1,500 victims in a massive multi-million dollar loan modification scam, according to the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ).
Charles Wayne Farris, 55, of Aliso Viejo, California, pleaded one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud n U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, California, for his role as the sales manager of the Rodis Law Group (RLG) and a successor entity, America’s Law Group (ALG).
Farris had operated the scam with his two co-defendants, Bryan D’Antonio and Ronald Rodis between October 2008 and June 2009. His role was as sales manager over a boiler room with dozens of telemarketers who targeted struggling homeowners across the nation, whom they induced to pay between $3,500 and $5,500 for the services .
The homeowners were responding to advertisements on radio stations where they were told to call a toll-free number and stating that the companies consisted of “a team of experienced attorneys” who were “highly skilled in negotiating lower interest rates and even lowering your principal balance.” The facts are that they only had one attorney, Ronald Rodis who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud on June 27.
Farris had devised clever scripts for his telemarketing team to fool homeowners with numerous misrepresentations regarding the companies’ ability to negotiate loan modifications with their mortgage servicers.
According to the USDOJ, the telemarketers stated that RLG and ALG had been in business for 11 years, when in fact the company had only opened in October 2008. They falsely stated that RLG and ALG routinely obtained positive results for homeowners, including lower monthly payments, reductions in principal balance and lower interest rates. In fact, positive results were rarely achieved for any RLG or ALG clients. Telemarketers also falsely reiterated that homeowners would have a team of attorneys and real estate professionals assigned to their case.
“This defendant supervised dozens of telemarketers who used lies and false promises to take money from struggling homeowners for a worthless service,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will continue to prosecute all kinds of mass-marketing and telemarketing fraud schemes, especially those that prey on vulnerable victims.”
“This defendant managed an entire team of people whose sole job was to lure struggling homeowners into the fraud scheme,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker of the Central District of California. “It is because of Mr. Farris that so many people were victimized for so much money.”
“The defendants in this case preyed upon vulnerable homeowners facing the loss of their home and callously took advantage of what hope they had left,” said Assistant Director in Charge Deirdre L. Fike of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Paid advertisements can lend a veneer of credibility to any scam, and I would encourage anyone considering paying fees up front for services to be skeptical before handing over hard earned money.”
Farris admitted that the RLG and ALG scams had fraudulently obtained approximately $9 million from more than 1,500 victims. His sentencing is on April 17, 2017.
Farris was charged along with two co-defendants, Bryan D’Antonio and Ronald Rodis. Rodis pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud on June 27. D’Antonio is charged with 23 felony counts. He is charged with nine counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Each of these counts carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. In addition, D’Antonio is charged with 13 counts of criminal contempt for violating a 2001 federal court order, which permanently banned D’Antonio from participating in future telemarketing operations. Criminal contempt of court has no statutory maximum penalty. D’Antonio is scheduled for trial beginning Sept. 20, according to the USDOJ,
This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney John W. Burke of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph T. McNally of the Central District of California.