Inland Empire Man Sentenced to Nearly 6 Years in Federal Prison for Bogus Debt-Elimination Services that Cost Victims $1.6 Million
LOS ANGELES – A Riverside man was sentenced today to 70 months in federal prison for defrauding hundreds of victims, mainly distressed homeowners who paid thousands of dollars after attending seminars that promoted a “Free and Clear” program pitched by the defendant and his salespeople.
James Ignatius Diamond, 69, was sentenced by United States District Judge R. Gary Klausner.
At the conclusion of a six-day trial in June, Diamond was found guilty by a jury of 15 counts of mail fraud affecting a financial institution and 15 counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution.
Between 2010 and 2013, Diamond sold fraudulent debt-elimination services to desperate victims whose finances had been ravaged by the Great Recession. Diamond owned and operated a number of businesses – including the Riverside-based Transmitting Assets Inc., Operation Safe Haven, Buyer Beware, and Unlimited Logistics Corp. – through which he fraudulently offered services that he claimed could wipe out the debts of homeowners behind on their mortgage payments and other debts.
Diamond personally pitched the “Diamond Home Reclamation Method” to solicit victims with false promises that his methods would entirely eliminate their mortgages and allow people to own their homes “free and clear.”
Relying on the false representations, victims paid substantial fees, including an upfront fee – typically $3,500, payable only in cash, money orders or cashier’s checks – periodic program fees, and inflated notary fees. After paying the upfront fee, victims were required to sign and notarize documents, which they were instructed to send to financial institutions and government agencies – documents prosecutors described in court documents as “fraudulent and nonsensical.”
When victims of the scheme in 2011 began receiving mortgage default notices and lost their homes, Diamond launched another debt-elimination scam called the “EFT Program,” under which Diamond claimed to be able to eliminate victims’ debt with “EFT” checks. This scam required victims to pay Diamond 13 percent of the debt that was to be eliminated.
Diamond knew that his methods did nothing to discharge debts. In fact, when FBI agents searched his business in 2013, they recovered hundreds of “rejection letters” from financial institutions indicating that documents submitted as part of the debt-elimination programs did nothing to help the victims. Diamond’s email accounts contained numerous complaints and refund requests from victims – all of which he ignored.
Investigators have identified more than 500 victims who suffered losses of at least $1.6 million. Diamond spent victims’ money on luxury hotels, jewelry, alcoholic beverages, and living expenses.
Previously in this case, a Diamond associate – Tricia Mae Gruber, 43, also of Riverside – pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and admitted helping operate the scheme. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 21.
This case was investigated by the FBI.
This matter was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Marina A. Torres of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section and Kevin B. Reidy of the General Crimes Section.