LOS ANGELES - Eleven people were facing possible conspiracy charges in connection with a loan modification scam that allegedly bilked 65 mostly Spanish-speaking victims out of more than $1 million.
Detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department's Commercial Crimes Division, Fraud Section and Fugitive Warrant Section, as well as investigators from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, arrested the suspects around 6 a.m. Wednesday on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a crime, according to a police statement.
The suspects were identified as Nino Vera, Tony Haschke, Franklin Marquez, Eduardo Teran, Corina Castillo, Daniel Argueta, Susana Vasquez, Jimmy Alvarez, Gustavo Vargas, Octavio Ponce and Juan Diego Perez.
Felony complaints stemming from the alleged conspiracy also were filed against David Zepeda, John Zepeda, Rene Solis and Hector Menendez, who were all already in custody, in Ventura and San Diego counties, and more suspects are in the process of being located and arrested, the statement said.
The scam targeted primarily Spanish-speaking homeowners having difficulty making their mortgage payments during the housing market downturn. Many were induced to sign paperwork and contracts that were in English only, police said.
The suspects, who ran their operation out of 10-12 offices in the Los Angeles County area, did virtually no work in helping the victim's save their homes and in fact placed some in greater jeopardy of foreclosure, police said, adding that most of the victims either lost their homes or have received default notices.
The operation used business names that included SB Management, Financial Wellness for Homeowners of Los Angeles County Corporation, California Sky Premier, Zap Group Legal, Majestic Group, El Camino Marketing and J&E Services, police said.
Investigators believe the fraud scheme was launched in 2008 or 2009 by brothers David and John Zepeda in San Diego and San Bernardino counties.
Victims were told that if they paid large large upfront fees and made monthly payments to SB Management they would be able to stay in their homes as caretakers, police said.
SB Management would stop the foreclosure, negotiate with lenders and get principal balances and loan payments reduced by about 50 percent, victims were told, and the same sales pitch continued when Solis took over the operation following the Zepeda brothers' arrests in September of 2010, according to police.
The suspects were paid large commissions, but no payments were made and little or no communication or negotiation was initiated with creditors on the victims' behalf, police said.
In addition to the Zepeda brothers and Solis, leaders of the operation were said to include Marquez and Sally Samaris, police said without reporting if Samaris, a licensed real estate saleswoman, has been arrested or charged.