By Chris Kramer
As many people know, financial woes with house payments and mortgage loans are often a major part of bankruptcy. One of the most important preventive measures that homeowners can take to avoid getting into financial trouble in the first place is to inform themselves about possible scams that are being perpetrated in the market.
One recent case provides such a lesson for homeowners. A group of con artists in Northern California were nabbed by the FBI several months ago in connection with a scam to use homes in foreclosure to collect mortgage loans from local banks. In total, the scam netted 1.2 million dollars for the three scam artists while leaving many unsuspecting homeowners without help that they thought was coming.
The ringleader, Christopher Craig, reportedly promised loans to homeowners in the cities of Sacramento, Auburn, Lincoln, Stockton, Elk Grove and Manteca who were on the verge of going through foreclosure. Using information obtained from the homeowners, Craig apparently transferred the property deeds for the homes to his two partners, Donald Edgecomb and Jacob Esteves, who had set up fraudulent "straw" companies.
Then, based on documents that the homeowners had provided, the two men applied for and received mortgage loans on the properties from Washington Mutual Bank. Unbeknownst to the homeowners, as well as the banks, the men claimed that the properties had no current mortgages and fabricated evidence to support their claims.
After pleading guilty to bank fraud in May, Craig was sentenced this week to 60 months in federal prison, in addition to providing restitution for the remaining loan amounts he was responsible for receiving, which totaled nearly $975,000. His cohorts, Edgecomb and Esteves, also pled guilty to misprision, or failing to report a felony. The other two men will be sentenced next month.
Craig and his cronies were able to prey so easily on the homeowners as unsuspecting role players in their scam precisely because their situation made them vulnerable. Don't get yourself caught in a similar situation when it comes to bankruptcy or foreclosure. An experienced attorney can help you understand your rights and protections under law, and can help you as you navigate the often complex legalities of mortgage and foreclosure.