The only thing worse than no hope is false hope. Or maybe it’s false hope combined with some really bad advice. That’s what a California-based company allegedly offered struggling homeowners, many of whom lost their homes to foreclosure.
This week, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, federal agents arrested Bryan D’Antonio, 47, of Brea, Calif., and Charles Wayne Farris, 53, of Aliso Viejo, Calif., for operating Rodis Law Group and America’s Law Group. The businesses allegedly offered bogus loan modification assistance to home owners who were struggling with their payments.
Attorney Ronald Rodis, 49, of Irvine, Calif., surrendered to federal agents on charges that he took part in and lent his name and former law license to the fraudulent operation. All three were named in a federal indictment following an investigation by the FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation.
D’Antonio, Farris and Rodis are charged with 10 felony counts, including nine counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. D’Antonio is also charged with 13 counts of criminal contempt for violating a 2001 court order.
According to the indictment, the by D’Antonio, Farris and Rodis, caused more than 1,800 financially distressed homeowners to lose at least $12 million in fees. Over nine months, starting in October 2008, the Rodis Law Group and America’s Law Group allegedly made false promises and guarantees to distressed homeowners.
The companies claimed they would negotiate loan modifications from the homeowners’ mortgage lenders and falsely represented that a team of attorneys would represent the homeowners. The companies also advised homeowners to stop making mortgage payments. Rodis Law Group and then its successor America’s Law Group allegedly advertised loan modification assistance on radio stations nationwide.
According to the indictment, once homeowners paid a fee of several thousand dollars, the companies made little or no effort was made to obtain loan modifications and homeowners who tried to get updates on their cases were often unable to contact anyone.
D’Antonio allegedly committed these crimes after a previous conviction for mail and wire fraud for his part in a telemarketing scheme. A civil case by the Federal Trade Commission and a 2001 court order had permanently banned D’Antonio from participating in future telemarketing operations.