Former Attorney Pleads Guilty to Participating in Fraudulent Mortgage Modification Scheme that Cost Victims $6 Million
SANTA ANA, California – A former licensed attorney from Irvine pleaded guilty this afternoon to federal charges for his role in a multi-million dollar fraudulent mortgage modification scheme.
Ronald Rodis, 51, of Irvine, pleaded guilty before United States District Judge David O. Carter to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Rodis admitted that he participated in a scheme with several co-conspirators – Bryan D’Antonio, Charles Wayne Farris and others – to induce homeowners to pay between $3,500 and $5,500 for the services of the Rodis Law Group (RLG). Between October 2008 and June 2009, Rodis and his co-conspirators made numerous misrepresentations regarding the RLG’s ability to negotiate loan modifications from the homeowners’ mortgage lenders.
Rodis recorded radio advertisements encouraging struggling homeowners to call RLG. In the ads, Rodis falsely claimed that RLG 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 was a telemarketing operation that never had a team of experienced attorneys. During much of the scheme, Rodis was the only attorney at RLG.
“This defendant posed as an accomplished attorney who could provide quality legal services – and hope – to struggling homeowners,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “But the promises were bogus. Rodis Law Group made few efforts to assist homeowners, who paid thousands of dollars in last-ditch attempts to keep their homes, many of which entered foreclosure.”
When homeowners called RLG, telemarketers made misrepresentations to convince them to hire RLG. For example, telemarketers stated that RLG had been in business for 11 years, when in fact it had only opened in October 2008. They falsely stated that RLG 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 clients. Telemarketers also falsely reiterated that homeowners would have a team of attorneys and real estate professionals assigned to their case.
“It is an unfortunate truth that people often take advantage of a crisis for personal gain,” said Assistant Director in Charge Deirdre Fike of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The Rodis Law Group was among the worst type of scammers, trying to take advantage of homeowners already experiencing profound heartache in the face of potential foreclosure. The FBI will not tolerate this kind of criminal behavior. I truly hope that when the next financial crisis arises, members of the public take a moment to look into claims that sound too good to be true, even if those claims are made by attorneys, before would-be clients become victims.”
In a plea agreement filed in federal court, Rodis admitted that the RLG scheme fraudulently obtained approximately $6 million from more than 1,500 victims.
“At the height of the mortgage crisis, this defendant and his co-conspirators preyed on desperate homeowners with a series of lies and false promises,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will continue to prosecute individuals who target vulnerable victims for profit.”
Judge Carter is scheduled to sentence Rodis on February 27, 2017
The two co-defendants in the case – Bryan D’Antonio and Charles Wayne Farris – are each charged with conspiracy and nine counts of 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 and Farris are scheduled to go on trial on September 20.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph T. McNally and DOJ Trial Attorney John W. Burke of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.