Topeka, Kan. – (January 20, 2009) Two Los Angeles men have been convicted of running a scam in which homeowners who were behind on their mortgage payments paid them to hold off foreclosure by filing fraudulent bankruptcy petitions.
Acting U.S. Attorney Marietta Parker announced today that a federal jury convicted Isaac Yass, 42, a citizen of Israel who has been living in Los Angeles, Calif., on the following charges:
– One count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and aggravated identity theft
– Six counts of mail fraud
– Six counts of aggravated identity theft
Co-defendant Robert Andrew Blechman, 39, Culver City, Calif., was convicted on each of the same counts.
During the trial, which began Tuesday, Jan. 6 and ended with a verdict shortly before 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 16, prosecutors presented evidence that Yass and Blechman conspired to operate a fraudulent service called Stopco claiming to be able to save homeowners who where behind on their mortgage payments from losing their homes. Evidence showed that:
– Yass solicited homeowners who were going through foreclosure proceedings. He told them that for a fee he could help them keep their houses.
– The defendants filed fraudulent bankruptcy petitions in federal bankruptcy courts in Topeka, Wichita and Kansas City, Kan. The petitions were filed in the name of nonexistent individuals with businesses that claimed to be part owners of properties that were in foreclosure.
– The result was an automatic stay in the foreclosures, halting any further actions by creditors against the properties.
The defendants used the U.S.Postal Service to deliver fraudulent petitions to the bankruptcy court. The petitions contained false names and Social Security numbers, and addresses for the creditors that were in fact mailboxes or UPS Store locations in Kansas.
“The defendants used the bankruptcy system to operate an illegal foreclosure rescue scheme, causing harm to financially distressed homeowners and threatening the integrity of the bankruptcy system,” stated Richard Wieland, United States Trustee for Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico (Region 20). “The United States Trustee Program appreciates the cooperative efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General that led to this conviction.”
Sentencing is set for May 11, 2009. A forfeiture hearing is set for Jan. 22, 2009.Yass and Blechman face a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million on each count of mail fraud, and a mandatory 2 years and a fine up to $250,000 on each count of aggravated identity theft. Parker commended the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Social Security-Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Trustees Office , Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Hathaway and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Kenney for their work on the case.
SOURCE: United State Department of Justice -- District of Kansas