A housing consumer protection stalwart, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, recently announced the arrest of three suspects charged with mortgage fraud that targeted struggling homeowners.
The charges allege North Bay Trust Services fleeced homeowners of upfront fees ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 for a phony promissory note or new mortgage, purportedly to eliminate their mortgage debt.
The suspects, allegedly masquerading as the attorney for the homeowner's actual lender, claimed to record documentation that would relinquish the mortgage and replace it with a new deed of trust owned by North Bay Trust Services.
The debt to the original lender was never actually satisfied. The allegedly fraudulent documents would only delay a foreclosure, but not actually satisfy the pre-existing mortgage debt, Harris' office reported.
Falsifying such documents is a felony. Also, requiring up-front fees for mortgage relief services is a red flag because the practice is illegal in California.
The felony arrest complaint alleges that Ronald Vernon Cupp, 58, of Santa Rosa, used six websites to deceive homeowners by falsely advertising he could "kill" mortgage debt.
Under court order, the websites now redirect visitors to the California Attorney General's web site where individuals can file an online complaint form if they believe they may have been taken by the scheme.
The websites are:
Harris said Randall Gilbert Heyden, 69, of San Rafael, and Angelle Wertz, 38, of Santa Rosa, a public notary, who allegedly certified phony legal documents, both allegedly assisted Cupp funnel the money and documents through Cupp’s business, North Bay Trust Services.
"Vulnerable California homeowners thought they were working to save their homes, but were actually the victims of a fraudulent scheme," Harris said.
"Today, it's not enough to dismantle the brick-and-mortar aspect of a criminal operation; we need to shut down criminal operations in cyberspace as well," she added in a press release.
The three are charged in a 57-count complaint alleging theft, forgery, notary fraud and recording of false documents and were booked at the Sonoma County (CA) Jail.
Cupp and Heyden were being held on a $500,000 and $75,000 bail, respectively. Wertz was released, but ordered to appear for arraignment.
A joint investigation by a mortgage fraud strike force, a computer crimes task force, Marin County District Attorney's office, Sonoma County District Attorney's Office and Santa Rosa Police Department, all in California, led to the arrests.
The case and others like it around the nation continue to hammer home the point; mortgage fraud is alive and well.
Struggling consumers must realize the emotional strain of potentially losing their home is like blood in the water to the sharks that prey upon them.
Missed payments, mortgage defaults and related filings are recorded and become a matter of public record, which scam artists can access.
Don't take the bait