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15 Arrested, Charged In Loan Modification Scam Targeting Spanish-Speaking Homeowners

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Police say 15 people have been arrested for their involvement in a loan modification scam targeting mostly Spanish-speaking victims, who have been bilked of more than $1 million.

The scam targeted primarily Spanish-speaking homeowners having trouble making their mortgage payments during the housing market downturn, according to detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Commercial Crimes Division, Fraud Section and Fugitive Warrant Section. Homeowners were convinced to sign paperwork and contracts that were in English only, and many homes were actually put in greater jeopardy of foreclosure, police said.

Eleven suspects arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a crime Wednesday were identified as: Nino Vera, Tony Haschke, Franklin Marquez, Eduardo Teran, Corina Castillo, Daniel Arqueta, Susana Vasquez, Jimmy Alvarez, Gustavo Vargas, Octavio Ponce and Juan Diego Perez.

Felony complaints have also been filed against David Zepeda, John Zepeda, Rene Solis and Hector Menendez, all of whom were already in custody, according to a statement. Police continue to locate and arrest more suspects in connection with the scam.

The operation was run out of 10 to 12 offices in the Los Angeles County area, under business names that included SB Management, Financial Wellness for Homeowners of Los Angeles County Corporation, California Sky Premier, Zap Group Legal, Majestic Group, El Camino Marketing and J&E Services.

Investigators believe it was launched in 2008 or 2009 by brothers David and John Zepeda in San Diego and San Bernardino counties. Solis is suspected of taking over the operation following the Zepeda brothers’ arrests in September of 2010.

Victims were told that if they paid large upfront fees and made monthly payments to SB Management, they would be able to stay in their homes as caretakers, police said. In reality, officials say, the suspects did virtually no work in helping the victims save their homes.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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