Rip-Off Alert: Mortgage scam targets Hispanic families in foreclosure trouble
LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) —
When a homeowner is desperate to save their home from going into foreclosure, they might explore all options.
Rafael Ramirez is still trying to pick up the pieces of his life after losing his home in a mortgage scam. His Chicago home was in the beginning stages of foreclosure, and he was eager to get a principle reduction or payment relief.
“We were struggling to get modifications, and they weren't being very successful,” he said.
Then he heard of a program offered by Washington National Trust that said it could help him adapt his loan.
"It was coming from a person that I trusted, so that is why I went along with it," Ramirez said.
The program promised struggling homeowners a way out of foreclosure for a fee between $5,000 and $10,000. The problem — the trust wasn't licensed to make mortgages or modify loans.
“They trusted these people, and they just signed away their lives thinking these people were in fact helping them when they did nothing for them,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Erika Hawkins.
Fifty-four victims lost more than $220,000, but the emotional toll was worse than the financial.
Many of these victims then had sheriffs knock on their door and were evicted from their home.
“I lost my home. I lost my marriage,” Ramirez said. “I lost my, I guess, credibility within myself."
Melvin Bell, Monica Hernandez and Carlos Rayas were arrested on mail fraud charges. Postal inspectors say the trio targeted Hispanic victims and pretended to act as an interpreter.
Inspectors advise consumers to always research any company you plan to trust with your finances.
"Make sure that they are licensed,” Hawkins said. “Call the state. It takes a little longer time, but in the end, it's worth it.”
Bell and Hernandez were found guilty of mail fraud charges and are awaiting sentencing. Rayas pleaded guilty to mail fraud charges.