The U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) sentenced two California men to prison yesterday for defrauding struggling homeowners in a nationwide loan modification scam. More than 1,000 homeowners were victimized in the scheme with losses totaling more than $3 million.
Serj Geutssoyan, also known as “Anthony Kirk,” 34, of Santa Ana, was sentenced to 4 years and 4 months of imprisonment, and Daniel Shiau, also known as “Scott Decker,” 30, of Irvine, to 4 years and 10 months of imprisonment. The defendants were also were ordered to serve three years of supervised release and pay restitution in the amount of $2,390,496.59.
The defendants operated a plethora of sham firms in California to evade consumer complaints and law enforcement.
They did business, at various times, as “First Choice Financial Group, Inc.,” “First Choice Financial,” “First Choice Debt,” “Legal Modification Firm,” “National Freedom Group,” “Home Care Alliance Group,” “Home Protection Firm,” “Hardship Center,” “Network Solutions Center, Inc.,” “Premiere Financial Center,” “Premiere Financial,” “Rescue Firm,” “International Research Group LLC,” “Hardship Solutions,” “American Loan Center,” “Loan Retention Firm,” “Clear Vision Financial,” “Green Tree Financial Group,” “Green Tree Financial,” “Enigma Fund, Inc.,” “National Aid Group,” “Southern Chapman Group LLC,” “Save Point Financial,” “Best Rate Financial Solutions,” “Best Rate Financial Solution,” “Best Rate Financial,” “Best Rate Finance Group,” “Nation Star Financial,” and “Nation Star Fin Group.”
According to the USDOJ, the leader of the scam, Maleki was sentenced to 112 months of imprisonment in July. He also forfeited approximately $350,000 that investigators seized from various bank accounts, approximately $362,000 sized from a Bitcoin account, a $100,000 cashier’s check, and a 2013 Ferrari 458 Italia.
Both Geutssoyan and Shiau were senior salespersons for the scam. The companies charged illegal upfront fees is exchange to provide mortgage loan modification services to struggling homeowners who were having difficulty making payments on their loans.
The defendants charged homeowners fees that typically ranged from approximately $2,500 to $4,300 by making false statements such as the homeowners already had been approved for loan modifications on extremely favorable terms; the mortgage loan modifications already had been negotiated with the homeowners’ lenders; the homeowners qualified for and would receive financial assistance under various government mortgage relief programs, including the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the Home Affordable Modification Program; and if for some reason the mortgage loan modifications fell through, the homeowners would be entitled to a full refund of their fees.
However, no such promises or agreements existed. Very few of the homeowners ever received help and most of the people lost thousands of dollars in the scheme.
The other four defendants also have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.