During a nine-month period starting in October 2008, the Rodis Law Group and America’s Law Group allegedly defrauded troubled borrowers by making false promises and guarantees regarding the companies’ ability to negotiate loan modifications from the homeowners’ mortgage lenders, according to a federal indictment.
Homeowners were supposedly told through radio advertisements that a “team of experienced attorneys” who were “highly skilled in negotiating lower interest rates and even lowering your principal balance” would represent them in order to modify mortgage payments with their lender. Until this happened, the defendants told the borrowers to cease making their mortgage payments.
The scam was run by Bryan D’Antonio and Charles Farris, both from California, who have been arrested by federal agents.
Sales staff hired by D’Antonio and Farris purportedly told interested homeowners that Rodis Law Group was “100% successful,” “routinely lowered monthly payments” and obtained reduced principal balances, the indictment says. But once borrowers paid a fee of several thousand dollars to Rodis Law Group, the indictment claims the defendants made no effort to obtain loan modifications.
As a result of this scam, more than 1,800 financially distressed homeowners lost a total of at least $12 million in fees they paid to the companies. Many borrowers also lost their homes to foreclosure.
“Posing as successful lawyers, these defendants offered struggling homeowners false hopes and bogus promises of quality legal representation,” said Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. attorney for the Central District of California. “The market offering loan modifications is rife with fraud, which is why we have redoubled our efforts to investigate and prosecute those who engage in financial crimes that target distressed homeowners.”
All three defendants are charged with 10 felony counts—nine counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. Each of these counts carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment.