Four men pleaded guilty in federal court in San Diego Friday to stealing more than $11 million in a loan modification scam that preyed on desperate homeowners trying to save their homes from foreclosure.
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Gary Michael Bobel, 59, Scott Thomas Spencer, 35, Mark Andrew Spencer, 32, and Travis Corey Iverson, 35, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges.
Bobel, of Carlsbad, also admitted that he failed to report approximately $489,308 in taxable income received in 2009 from 1st American Law Center.
"I think he feels remorseful for his conduct at the time he was doing this," said Bobel's lawyer, Gretchen von Helms.
An employee of 1st American Law Center, Roger Trent Jones, pleaded guilty a year ago and was sentenced in March to 21 months in custody for his involvement in the conspiracy.
According to court documents, Bobel opened up the loan modification business in North County in 2008.
Von Helms said the loan modification business Bobel ran wasn't meant to be a scam.
"The banks would not budge," von Helms said. "They would not assist people. They wouldn't go back and modify loans."
The defendants -- including company partner Dean Chandler, who fronted their national ads -- used high-pressure sales tactics and outright lies to induce customers of 1st American to purchase loan modification services -- for payments of $1,995 to $4,495 -- such as falsely claiming to have a team of attorneys who pre-screened clients and having a 98 percent success rate in obtaining loan modifications.
"There's been some unscrupulous individuals, including lawyers, who have taken money and not done anything for that money," Chandler told 10News in June 2010. "We are not one of them."
Among other ruses, telemarketers pretended that their grandmothers got a loan modification through the company, that they had a special relationship with a particular client's bank, or that the company had helped thousands of happy homeowners with loan modifications, prosecutors said.
The telemarketers even persuaded homeowners to pay the company's fees instead of using their limited funds to stay current on their mortgage payments, according to prosecutors.
Through the use of false representations and promises, 1st American Law Center fraudulently obtained more than $11 million in client payments between 2008 and 2010 from more than 4,000 homeowners across the country, prosecutors said.
"Dean Chandler will be standing in front of this court room and he'll either be here on his own two feet or the government will go out and get him," von Helms predicted.
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