The Department of Justice announced that in Orange County, California, a man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, California, for his role as the sales manager of a multi-million dollar fraudulent mortgage modification scheme.
Charles Wayne Farris, 55, of Aliso Viejo, California, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter for the Central District of California to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
“This defendant managed an entire team of people whose sole job was to lure struggling home owners into the fraud scheme,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker of the Central District of California. “It is because of Mr. Farris that so many people were victimized for so much money.”
“This defendant supervised dozens of telemarketers who used lies and false promises to take money from struggling homeowners for a worthless service,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will continue to prosecute all kinds of mass-marketing and telemarketing fraud schemes, especially those that prey on vulnerable victims.”
Farris admitted that, between October 2008 and June 2009, he participated in a scheme to induce homeowners to pay between $3,500 and $5,500 for the services of the Rodis Law Group (RLG) and a successor entity, America’s Law Group (ALG). RLG and ALG advertised on radio stations nationwide, urging struggling homeowners to call a toll-free number and stating that the companies consisted of “a team of experienced attorneys” who were “highly skilled in negotiating lower interest rates and even lowering your principal balance.” In fact, RLG and ALG were telemarketing operations that never had teams of experienced attorneys. During much of the scheme, Ronald Rodis was the only attorney at RLG.
Farris supervised a sales force of dozens of telemarketers who fielded calls from struggling homeowners. At Farris’s direction and using scripts that he created, the telemarketers made numerous misrepresentations regarding the companies’ ability to negotiate loan modifications from the homeowners’ mortgage lenders. For example, the telemarketers stated that RLG and ALG had been in business for 11 years when in fact the company had only opened in October 2008. They falsely stated that RLG and ALG routinely obtained positive results for homeowners, including lower monthly payments, reductions in principal balance and lower interest rates. In fact, positive results were rarely achieved for any RLG or ALG clients. Telemarketers also falsely reiterated that homeowners would have a team of attorneys and real estate professionals assigned to their case.
“The defendants in this case preyed upon vulnerable homeowners facing the loss of their home and callously took advantage of what hope they had left,” said Assistant Director in Charge Deirdre L. Fike of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Paid advertisements can lend a veneer of credibility to any scam, and I would encourage anyone considering paying fees up front for services to be skeptical before handing over hard earned money.”
In a plea agreement filed in federal court, Farris admitted that the RLG and ALG schemes fraudulently obtained approximately $9 million from more than 1,500 victims. His sentencing is on April 17, 2017.
Farris was charged along with two co-defendants, Bryan D’Antonio and Ronald Rodis. Rodis pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud on June 27. D’Antonio is charged with 23 felony counts. He is charged with nine counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Each of these counts carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. In addition, D’Antonio is charged with 13 counts of criminal contempt for violating a 2001 federal court order, which permanently banned D’Antonio from participating in future telemarketing operations. Criminal contempt of court has no statutory maximum penalty. D’Antonio is scheduled for trial beginning Sept. 20.
This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph T. McNally of the Central District of California and Trial Attorney John W. Burke of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.