SAN BERNARDINO (AP) — Seven people have been charged with a mortgage loan scheme that bilked Southern Californians out of $6.2 million.

State authorities say the men were arrested Wednesday on an indictment charging them with grand theft, income tax evasion and conspiracy.

Attorney General Kamala Harris says they took advantage of desperate people who fighting to keep their homes at the height of the foreclosure crisis.

Prosecutors say that from 2007 to mid-2010, the men operated companies that scammed more than 1,500 people in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Authorities said the men falsely claimed to hand loan modifications, charged illegal up-front payments and told customers to stop paying their mortgages and instead give the money to them.

Authorities say many victims were forced to default on their home loans.

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