Two Chula Vista men have pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering in connection with defrauding 200 homeowners in mortgage loan modification scams with a loss of $1.6 million.
Both Christian Hidalgo, 36, and Jose Ruiz, 37, remain free on bond. Hidalgo will be sentenced May 20 and Ruiz on July 15 in U.S. District Court.
A third man, Isidro Velasquez Jr., 39, of San Diego, will be sentenced July 22 and is also free on bond.
The men operated different businesses and met with homeowners facing potential foreclosure, offering to negotiate mortgage loan modifications. They directed victims to stop making mortgage payments to their lenders and instead send the payments to their firms.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says the men misled victims into believing their businesses were affiliated with the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development or other federal agencies.
The defendants represented that they would put the mortgage payments in a reserve account and later send them to the lenders, but prosecutors say no such account was used and none of the money was forwarded to lenders.
Some homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure.
Ruiz and Hidalgo have agreed to forfeit some things they purchased with victim funds, such as one BMW and other vehicles, jewelry and furniture. All three men have agreed to pay full restitution to victims.
The three men separately operated businesses known as Casa Nuestra, Expo Enterprises, Retro Management, and UHUD National Reserve.
The maximum sentence is 20 years in federal prison, but it is unlikely that any of them will receive such a long term if they do pay restitution. For example, a prosecutor has recommended that Ruiz receive 57 months in prison along with a restitution order of $1.12 million, which he might share with the others.