(CINCINNATI, Ohio) American Equity Group
A federal grand jury has indicted four people who ran a Cincinnati real estate business known as American Equity Group (AEG) with fraudulently obtaining more than $13 million in loans through a loan fraud scheme that targeted homeowners or builders in or near foreclosure.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and Edward J. Hanko, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced the indictment today. These agencies are members of the Greater Cincinnati Mortgage Fraud Task Force.
"As a result of the hard work of the task force, this indictment will help protect Ohioans and bring criminals to justice," Attorney General DeWine said. "Foreclosure rescue scams remain a major threat to the financial security of Ohio homeowners, and we are committed to doing all we can to put an end to this type of fraud. These operations make false promises to vulnerable homeowners and take money without providing any real help."
The indictment charges Adam Moellers, 33; Gary Dailey, a.k.a Gary Klump, 32; Perry Bensick, Jr., 35; and Gary Dailey's mother, Mary Dailey, 50; all of Cincinnati, with wire fraud, mail fraud and conspiracy.
The indictment alleges that the four worked together at AEG, which also operated under the names Equity Financial Solutions and Equity Financial Group, and carried out the scheme between July 2006 and October 2007.
According to the indictment, they conspired to locate distressed properties that were in or nearing foreclosure or that needed to be sold quickly. They would typically promise the sellers that they could continue to live in the property as a renter, then purchase the property back after AEG assisted the homeowner with repairing their credit. The defendants are accused of finding "investors" to purchase the property, often at inflated values, with the promise that the mortgage would be paid through rent payments from the original seller and that the original seller would purchase the property back within a short period. After the properties were stripped of any equity, they would be back in foreclosure again, and the distressed homeowners wouldn't have any standing in court because they no longer owned the properties. The "investors" who bought the houses were left with the debt.
In other circumstances, the distressed properties were new homes that were constructed by new home builders, but had not been purchased yet. The defendants would find "investors" to purchase the property, often at inflated values, with the promise the property would quickly be resold or rented.
The indictment alleges that the defendants fraudulently secured loans totaling more than $13 million and involving 18 properties in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Georgia. They allegedly created loan applications with fraudulent statements about the borrower's income, employment, assets and liabilities, forged signatures on the applications and submitted fabricated supporting documentation to lenders.
"Loan fraud can devastate an individual's bank account, undermine financial institutions, and devalue properties in entire neighborhoods," U.S. Attorney Stewart said. "We will continue to build collaborations with law enforcement to investigate and prosecute fraud."
Each count is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the loss.
The four will be summoned to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen L. Litkovitz for an initial appearance and arraignment
An indictment is merely an accusation. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) American Residential Law Group
Attorney General DeWine has filed a civil lawsuit against American Residential Law Group (ARLG), a Florida-based foreclosure rescue company that charges consumers $1,395 to $3,350 to negotiate loan modifications with the consumers' lenders. According to the lawsuit filed this week, ARLG failed to deliver promised services and failed to provide refunds. The lawsuit charges ARLG with violations of the Consumer Sales Practices Act and Debt Adjuster's Act. In the lawsuit, the Attorney General seeks consumer restitution, injunctive relief, and civil penalties.
"The Ohio Attorney General's Office will not tolerate the actions of these companies that prey on people who are often desperate, when trying to save their homes," said Attorney General DeWine. "Ohioans need to be very wary, particularly of out-of-state companies that make claims that sound too good to be true."
Since January, Attorney General DeWine's office has filed three civil lawsuits against foreclosure rescue operations, including ARLG, and has issued 12 cease and desist notices to foreclosure rescue operations. The cease and desist notices demand that the operations cease any violations of Ohio consumer law.
Before doing business with a company, consumers are encouraged to research that company with the Ohio Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau. The Ohio Attorney General's Office can be reached by calling 800-282-0515 or consumers can go to OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.
Lisa Hackley, AGO: 614-466-3840
Fred Alverson, USDOJ: 614-469-5715