|Two men pleaded guilty Tuesday to defrauding homeowners in a "foreclosure rescue" scam that netted the criminals titles to more than 80 houses, more than $20 million in fraudulently acquired home equity loans and $1.4 million in fees, federal prosecutors.
Maurice McDowall, 49, faces up to 30 years in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, plus a fine of twice his ill-gotten gains. McDowall directed the illegal operation, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Aleksander Lipkin, 29, faces the same sentence on the same charge. He was a mortgage broker who coordinated the submission of fraudulent information to lenders. Lipkin also pleaded guilty to another charge of defrauding subprime mortgage lenders.
One other defendant has pleaded guilty in U.S. v. McDowall and three more await trial. Four have pleaded guilty in U.S. v. Lipkin, and 22 await trial.
As is often the case in mortgage rescue scams, the men offered to "help" distressed homeowners by refinancing, selling the homes to straw buyers who would apply for a new mortgage, which they would use to pay off the old debt, and then resell the house to the victims.
But McDowall and Lipkin sometimes failed to make even a single payment on the loans; in nearly all the others they eventually stopped making payments and defaulted, cashing out the property. In some cases, they just stole the houses by forging homeowners' signatures transferring the property, prosecutors said.
"As a result, the distresses homeowners lost the titles to their homes and faced eviction, the straw buyers owed the lenders hundreds of thousands of dollars that they were unable to repay, and the lenders suffered losses from the defaulted loans," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.