Vallejo Business Owner Arrested for Alleged Foreclosure-Rescue Fraud Scheme
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sergio Roman Barrientos, 62, of Poway, was arrested on Wednesday in San Diego. On Thursday, April 14, a federal grand jury returned a six-count superseding indictment against Barrientos that added co-defendant Zalathiel Aguila, 42, of Fairfield, to the indictment originally brought on March 3, 2016, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
According to the indictment, Barrientos, Aguila, and Omar Anabo, 53, of Vallejo, engaged in a foreclosure rescue fraud scheme that began in September 2004 and continued to February 2008. Barrientos and Aguila are charged with conspiracy to commit and the commission of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, bank fraud, and conspiracy to make and making false statements on loan applications. On January 15, 2016, Anobo pleaded guilty to conspiring to make false statements on loan applications (case number 2:16-cr-001 GEB). He is scheduled for sentencing on November 4, 2016.
According to court documents, Barrientos owned Capital Access LLC, in Vallejo, and along with Aguila and Anabo, preyed on homeowners nearing foreclosure. The defendants’ “Keep Your Home” program purported to be a temporary rescue plan whereby “qualified investors” took over the mortgages while the homeowners paid rent and worked on rebuilding their credit. It is alleged that he defendants convinced homeowners to sign over title to their homes, which were then sold to straw buyers. The straw buyers obtained loans under fraudulent pretenses by claiming on loan applications that, for example, they intended to occupy the homes as primary residences and that no part of the down payment for the purchase was borrowed. In fact, it is alleged that Capital Access provided the down payment amounts, and the straw buyers never intended to live in the properties. The defendants stripped the equity from the homes and used it to pay the operational expenses of the scheme and personal expenses. Vulnerable homeowners across California lost their homes as a result of the alleged scheme, and lenders lost an estimated $10.47 million from the fraud.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Yelovich is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for each count of wire fraud, bank fraud, and false statement, as well as for the conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud count. If convicted of conspiracy to make false statements on loan applications, they face a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would 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. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.