Six years after it started, all four people behind a mortgage scam that bilked dozens of desperate North Texans out of hundreds of thousands of dollars are behind bars, Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas said Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge David Godbey sentenced Mark Demetri Stein, 38, the owner of a company called Real Estate Solutions, to six years in prison and three years of supervised release. Godbey also ordered Stein to pay $215,138 in restitution to the homeowners he helped scam.
For more than 70 homeowners struggling to keep current on their mortgages, the offer made by Stein and his partners must have sounded too good to be true.
Rather than continue paying their current mortgages, homeowners could get new loans with better terms and stay in their houses. This supposed lifeline, peddled by Stein and his three business partners, was the first step of a long con that earned Bruce Hawkins a 41-month federal prison sentence.
Stein, Hawkins, Christina Caveny and Richard Stevens had a third party contact DFW residents facing foreclosure.
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"They lied to desperate homeowners, telling them 'investors' were standing by, ready to purchase homeowners’ loans from their original lenders at a greatly reduced price through a 'short sale' process, and suggesting homeowners had the legal authority to transfer their deeds to a foreclosure rescue company," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement Tuesday. "Then, although they knew they would not legally own the property, Stein and his co-defendants assured homeowners a foreclosure rescue company could 'sell' the property back to the homeowner with a new loan."
The investors didn't exist. Stein, Hawkins, Caveny and Stevens demanded hefty down payments for the new "loans" as well as monthly payments made directly to them. They pocketed all the cash.
When late-payment notices and notices for nonpayment began to show up from the homeowners' actual lenders, Stein and his co-defendants told the homeowners to ignore them. Some of the group's victims even declared bankruptcy on Stein's advice, further delaying an inevitable foreclosure and making sure Stein continued to get paid.
Stein got the longest sentence of anyone involved in the case. Caveny began serving 15 months in November 2017, Hawkins, already in federal prison on child pornography charges, got 41 more months in December 2017 and Stevens received, like Hawkins, a 41-month sentence in August.