California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced the arrest of two suspects who are accused of bilking distressed homeowners out of $350,000 by promising false loan modifications.

Harris' office said Joana Sosa, 54, and Zoila Ortega, 31, of Gardena, Calif., face charges of grand theft, burglary, unlawful collection of advanced fees, tax evasion and conspiracy in a massive mortgage-relief fraud scheme.

The AG's office alleges the pair ran a mortgage-rescue fraud scheme that targeted borrowers with limited English language skills.

The victims in some cases were told to stop paying their mortgages and bills. The pair also promised the borrowers they would take over payment of the loans.

Instead of becoming the loan's holder, Sosa and Ortega allegedly let the homes fall into default.

"As the mortgage crisis continues, we are seeing a troubling rise in fraud that targets struggling homeowners, including those with limited English language skills," said Attorney General Harris. 

Both of the suspects face 41 criminal felony counts.

Recently a yearlong Department of Justice and FBI initiative to protect distressed borrowers from foreclosure rescue scams resulted in charges against 530 accused con artists and the uncovering of $1 billion in losses.

That announcement followed news that the Federal Trade Commission filed lawsuits against three alleged mortgage relief fraudsters.

kpanchuk@housingwire.com