News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California

Los Angeles Mortgage Broker Pleads Guilty to Stealing Client Escrow Funds

Monday, September 23, 2013


Docket #: 1:11-cr-237-LJO



FRESNO, Calif. — Steve Zaven Kessedjian, 50, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty today to mail fraud in connection with his scheme to defraud client escrow funds, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

According to his plea agreement, Kessedjian operated two businesses – Amerilend and Targa Escrow – to help clients refinance home loans. In December 2007, a couple from Jamestown in Tuolumne County used Amerilend services and applied for a loan to refinance their home and pay off their credit cards. After the victims’ first mortgage was paid off, the remaining loan proceeds were wired to Kessedjian’s Targa Escrow account. However, instead of disbursing the proceeds to the victims’ credit card companies as directed by the escrow instructions, Kessedjian took the funds for his own purposes. Several months after escrow closed, Kessedjian then made checks payable to the victims and their credit card companies, purportedly as repayment for their escrow funds he had taken, but when the checks were presented to the bank, there were insufficient funds in Kessedjian’s account. As a further part of his scheme to defraud, Kessedjian caused the HUD-1 settlement statement to be changed to show no money being due out of escrow proceeds.

Kessedjian admitted in his plea agreement that his actions resulted in the Jamestown victims declaring bankruptcy because they could not make payments on both the larger refinanced loan Kessedjian’s company secured for them and the credit card debts which were to have been paid off with the funds taken by Kessedjian. As part of his plea agreement, Kessedjian is required to pay more than $66,000 to the victims of his fraud scheme.

This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service and the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Baker and Michael Tierney are prosecuting the case.

Kessedjian is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill on December 16, 2013. Kessedjian faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.



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