Southern California Man Pleads Guilty to Owning Fake Law Firms That Promised to Help Struggling Homeowners
More Than 1,500 Victims Defrauded Out of $9 Million
The Department of Justice announced that an Orange County, California, man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, California, for his role as the owner and operator of a multi-million dollar fraudulent mortgage modification scheme that posed as a successful law firm to defraud struggling homeowners.
Bryan D’Antonio, 50, of Brea, 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 for his role as owner and operator of Rodis Law Group (RLG) and America’s Law Group (ALG). His sentencing is on Jan. 30, 2017.
“At the height of the mortgage crisis, this defendant, a convicted felon who was prohibited from any business engaged in telemarketing, created two fake law firms that promised struggling homeowners assistance saving their homes and modifying their mortgages,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Despite the many promises, these were telemarketing sales operations that took homeowners’ money and provided no meaningful assistance.”
“D’Antonio preyed on vulnerable victims – struggling homeowners,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker of the Central District of California. “Pretending to offer legal assistance to their victims, D’Antonio and his cohorts actually offered nothing but false hopes and empty promises. Now, he will be held accountable in federal court for the damage he has caused so many victims.”
D’Antonio was previously convicted of mail and wire fraud and sentenced to four years in federal prison for his participation in a medical billing scheme. He was also subject to a permanent injunction prohibiting him from having any involvement with any business that engaged in telemarketing or misrepresented the services it would provide. As part of his plea hearing today, D’Antonio admitted that he started RLG while he was still on supervised release from his prior conviction. In violation of D’Antonio’s permanent injunction, RLG and ALG sold their services through an extensive telemarketing operation and employees routinely misrepresented the services RLG and ALG would provide.
D’Antonio admitted that, between October 2008 and June 2009, he participated in a scheme with Ronald Rodis, Charles Wayne Farris and others to induce homeowners to pay between $3,500 and $5,500 for the services of RLG and its successor entity, ALG. RLG and ALG advertised on radio stations nationwide, urging struggling homeowners to call a toll-free number and stated 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.
RLG and ALG telemarketers working for D’Antonio 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 telemarketers did not disclose to homeowners that RLG and ALG were owned and operated by Bryan D’Antonio, a convicted felon who was prohibited from engaging in telemarketing
In a plea agreement filed in federal court, D’Antonio admitted that the RLG and ALG schemes fraudulently obtained approximately $9 million from more than 1,500 victims.
D’Antonio’s co-defendants, Charles Wayne Farris and Ronald Rodis, both previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney John W. Burke of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph T. McNally of the Central District of California.
For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch, visit its website at http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, visit its website at https://www.justice.gov/usao-cdca.