A Maryland man was sentenced today to serve one year and a day in prison for defrauding thousands of homeowners in a $4 million nationwide home loan modification scheme.
Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O’Neil of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz of the District of Massachusetts and Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) Christy Romero made the announcement.
Brian Kelly, 37, of Forest Hill, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel of the District of Massachusetts and ordered to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term. Restitution will be determined at a later date.
Kelly pleaded guilty on May 2, 2013, to one count of conspiracy, nine counts of mail fraud and nine counts of wire fraud.
According to court records, Kelly and others, operating under the name Home Owners Protection Economics Inc. (HOPE), made a series of misrepresentations to induce struggling homeowners to pay HOPE $400 to $2,000 in up-front fees in exchange for HOPE’s help obtaining federally funded home loan modifications. Kelly was one of HOPE’s more successful salespeople, receiving approximately $24,000 after arranging fraudulent home loan modifications totaling approximately $180,000.
Also according to court documents, the conspirators misrepresented that, with HOPE’s assistance, the homeowner was guaranteed to receive a loan modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which is part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and is a federally funded mortgage-assistance program. For example, the defendants routinely claimed that the homeowner had already been approved for a loan modification, provided phony “approval codes,” quoted new (and wholly fictitious) mortgage terms and due dates, touted their 98 percent past success rate and claimed that they were “underwriters” or were otherwise affiliated with the homeowners’ mortgage companies. HOPE also claimed that it would offer homeowners refunds in the unlikely event that they did not receive a loan modification.
According to court documents, in exchange for the up-front fees, HOPE sent its customers, including homeowners in Massachusetts, a do-it-yourself application package, which was virtually identical to the application that the government provides free of charge. The HOPE customers had no advantage in the application process, and, in fact, most of their applications were denied. Through these misrepresentations, HOPE was able to persuade thousands of homeowners to pay more than $4 million in fees.
Two co-defendants, Christopher S. Godfrey, 44, of Delray Beach, Fla., and Dennis Fischer, 42, of Highland Beach, Fla., were convicted after trial and were each sentenced on Feb. 20, 2014, to serve 84 months in prison. A third co-defendant, Vernell Burris, Jr., 54, of Coconut Creek, Fla, pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Feb. 25, 2014, to serve a year and a day in prison.
The case was investigated by SIGTARP and is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Mona Sedky of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Bookbinder in the District of Massachusetts’s Computer Crimes Unit.