Fifteen years ago, 48-year old Glen Alan Ward launched an elaborate foreclosure-rescue scam that evolved into a morass of alleged crimes, according to Christy Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP). It also resulted in Ward becoming a federal fugitive for 12 of those 15 years.
Ward, who fled from California to Canada, finally pleaded guilty to three sets of charges in the Central and Northern Districts of California this week, ending a foreclosure debacle that lasted for more than a decade.
By the time of his guilty plea, Ward faced multiple charges for crimes, including identity theft, mail fraud and bankruptcy fraud.
Romero’s office says beginning in 1997, Ward advised distressed homeowners that he could delay their foreclosures for a fee of $700 per month. Once the the fee was paid, Ward used a public bankruptcy database to find the name of a debtor in bankruptcy, so he could delay the homeowner's foreclosure sale using the bankruptcy debtor's name.
Ward managed to obtain copies of unsuspecting debtors’ bankruptcy petitions and then asked his distressed borrowers (or clients) to execute and record a deed transferring a fractional interest in their properties to the unknowing debtor that Ward provided.
Using the bankruptcy debtor’s identity, Ward faxed a copy of the bankruptcy petition to the homeowner’s lender, advising the financial firm to stop the foreclosure sale with a bankruptcy proceeding in play.
A bankruptcy proceeding generally results in an economic stay, which provided Ward with more time.
It’s alleged Ward delayed foreclosure sales on 824 distressed properties using the same method, while collecting $1.2 million in fees from troubled borrowers.
Lenders, on the other hand, were forced to cancel foreclosure sales, making it impossible for them to collect monies owed. The Troubled Asset Relief Program also was impacted since some of the banks still owed TARP funds.
"In addition, if a distressed homeowner wanted to complete a loan modification or short sale, they were left to the mercy of Ward to send them forged deeds, supposedly signed by the debtors, to re-unify their title as required by most lenders,” Romero said in a press release.
At one point, Ward fled to Canada after failing to appear in court on charges filed back in 2000. Once in Canada, he kept his scheme going for another 12 years, Romero claims.
Now that he’s back in the U.S., Ward faces up to five years in prison for each bankruptcy fraud count and a possible mandatory two-year sentence for aggravated identity theft.
He will be sentenced on July 29, 2013.