Real Estate

Four Californians accused of running mortgage fraud scheme that targeted minorities

Face a total of 194 counts

Four Californians face a total of 194 charges for allegedly operating a mortgage fraud scheme that preyed on distressed minority borrowers who were seeking help with paying off their mortgages.

According to the office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Andrew Valles, Jemal Lilly, Mark Bellinger, and Arnold Millman were indicted recently for grand theft, filing false or forged documents in a public office, conspiracy to commit those offenses, and identity theft, as well as special allegations for aggravated white collar crime.

“The perpetrators of this mortgage fraud stole the life savings of decent Californians,” Becerra said.

“It's too common a story with all-too-common tactics. I hope today's arrests and indictments break the stride of those who prey on hard working Americans and betray their trust,” Becerra added. “This case demonstrates the potency of multi-jurisdictional law enforcement agencies collaborating to fight fraud.”

According to the indictment, between 2012 and 2017, Valles, Lilly, Bellinger, and Millman used a fake insurance company called SafeCare, which claimed to offer mortgage aid to primarily Latino and African American families for a low monthly fee.

During this time, Valles, Lilly, Bellinger, and Millman would allegedly delay foreclosures and eviction actions for the borrowers in question by filing false bankruptcy and other court documents using fake names.

From there, they would allegedly instruct the borrowers to deposit illegal advance fees and other large payments into a bank account that they controlled.

Then, when the promised loan did not come through, Valles, Lilly, Bellinger, and Millman would proceed with the fabricated filings.

According to Becerra’s office, one of the defendants allegedly committed identity theft by posing as an attorney purporting to assist the victims. The victims were charged additional fees for the “attorney services.”

The indictment alleges that the scheme led to a loss of approximately $2 million for 40 victims who were seeking loans to help pay off their mortgages. According to Becerra’s office, the scheme cost many of the victims their homes and life savings.

“These individuals are alleged to have played a role in this scheme by promising distressed homeowners new financing only to turn around and deliver bad credit,” said Rene Febles, deputy inspector general for investigations for the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of the Inspector General, which assisted in the investigation.

“These actions not only cost the government sponsored enterprises and financial institutions hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they harmed consumers who were trying to do the right thing,” Febles added. “FHFA-OIG thanks its law enforcement partners for their efforts.”

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