Two Worcester County Men Sentenced for Trafficking Contraband Smokeless Tobacco To Evade Over $2 Million in Taxes
BOSTON – Two Florida men were convicted yesterday for defrauding homeowners in Massachusetts and elsewhere in a home loan modification scam.
Christopher S. Godfrey, 44, of Delray Beach, Fla., Dennis Fischer, 42, of Highland Beach, Fla., were convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, and misuse of a government seal.
From January 2009 through May 2011, Godfrey, Fischer, and their employees, operating under the name Home Owners Protection Economics, Inc. (HOPE), made a series of misrepresentations to induce struggling homeowners looking for a federally-funded home loan modification to pay HOPE a $400-$900 up-front fee in exchange for HOPE's help obtaining modifications. Among these misrepresentations were the claims that, with HOPE's assistance, the homeowner was guaranteed to receive a loan modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which is part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and is a federally-funded mortgage assistance program. HOPE also claimed that it operated as a non-profit. In exchange for these up-front fees, HOPE sent its customers, including homeowners in Massachusetts, a do-it-yourself application package, which was virtually identical to the application that the government provides free of charge. The HOPE customers had no advantage in the application process, and, in fact, most of their applications were denied. Through these misrepresentations, HOPE was able to persuade thousands of homeowners to pay more than $4 million in fees.
Sentencing is scheduled for February 13, 2014. The defendants face a maximum sentence on each count of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and restitution.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman, and Christy Romero, Acting Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) in Wash., D.C., made the announcement today.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Bookbinder of Ortiz's Computer Crimes Unit and Trial Attorney Mona Sedky of the Department of Justice's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Criminal Division.