A California man was sentenced to more than nine years in federal prison for his role in leading a mortgage loan modification scheme that defrauded more than 1,000 homeowners nationwide.
Aria Maleki, 33, of Santa Ana, Calif., pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. Maleki and his six co-conspirators operated a host of California-based companies that went by a range of names and claimed to provide home loan modifications and other debt relief services for an upfront fee, the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said in a news release Tuesday.
The group charged $2,500 to $4,300 for its services and used pseudonyms and various business names to avoid being caught, SIGTARP said.
Maleki and his colleagues also allegedly told homeowners that they were already approved for modifications and would receive assistance under government programs such as Tarp and the Home Affordable Modification Program. The defendants told homeowners they could receive a full refund of the fees if the modifications fell through, according to SIGTARP.
In reality, the homeowners were not preapproved for modifications, and few received any assistance or refunds from the defendants. Over 1,000 homeowners affected by the scheme lost more than $3 million in all.
"Aria Maleki took advantage of the national mortgage crisis," Shelly Binkowski, postal inspector in charge of the Boston division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, said in the press release. "This sentencing clearly demonstrates that those who target hardworking homeowners in today's challenging economy will be held accountable and prosecuted."
The case was also investigated by the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the FBI.
Maleki and his co-conspirators were indicted by a grand jury in Connecticut in January. He also was sentenced Tuesday to three years' supervised release and had agreed to pay $3 million in restitution when he pleaded guilty. He had also forfeited $350,000 to investigators from various bank accounts, $362,000 from a bitcoin account, a $100,000 cashier's check and a Ferrari.
All of Maleki's co-conspirators have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.