BOSTON, Aug. 9 (UPI) — Four Florida residents were arrested Tuesday on charges they defrauded homeowners nationwide in a home loan modification scam, the U.S. Justice Department said.
An indictment was unsealed in federal court in Boston, where some of the alleged victims lived, charged Christopher S. Godfrey of Delray Beach, Dennis Fischer of Highland Beach, Vernell Burris Jr. of Boynton Beach and Brian M. Kelly of Boca Raton with conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and misuse of a government seal, Justice officials said in a release.
The indictment alleges from January 2009 through May 2011, the defendants and their employees made a series of misrepresentations to induce financially distressed homeowners looking for a federally funded home loan modifications to pay HOPE $400 to $900 in up-front fees for its home loan modifications, modification services and “software licenses.” With HOPE’s assistance the homeowner was virtually guaranteed to receive a loan modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program, a federally funded mortgage assistance program, the indictment said.
The company also misled homeowners by telling them they could stop making mortgage payments while they waited for HOPE to arrange their loan modification and that HOPE would refund the customer’s fee if the modification was not successful, among other things, the indictment said.
Prosecutors said in exchange for the up-front fees, HOPE allegedly sent customers a do-it-yourself application package nearly identical to the application the U.S. government provides free, the indictment said. HOPE customers who used the provided forms to apply on their own for loan modifications had no advantage in the application process, the indictment said. In fact, most of their applications were denied.