For North Texans struggling to keep current on their mortgages, the offer must've sounded too good to be true. And it was.
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 Bruce Hawkins of DeSoto and three others, was the first step of a long con that earned Hawkins a 41-month federal prison sentence.
Hawkins is already in federal prison. When the feds raided his DeSoto mortgage company in 2013, they found child pornography on Hawkins' computers. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and received a 10-year sentence.
In February 2012, Hawkins created a so-called foreclosure rescue company called ERealty Mortgage Group LLC. The company, shut down in November 2013, used a third-party service to get in touch with homeowners with missed or late mortgage payments. Victims of Hawkins' scheme were promised lower interest rates and reduced monthly payments.
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Hawkins told his marks that his company wanted their loans. ERealty would buy the homeowner's current lender out of the mortgage, Hawkins said, once the homeowner transferred the deed on the home to Hawkins. He said he would sell the home back to the homeowner, who would begin making mortgage payments to Hawkins after a hefty down payment.
None of that happened. After "closing" on their new loans with Hawkins — who had his victims sign meaningless documents — homeowners began sending checks to him each month, thinking he'd bought their loan and their home, but no transaction had occurred.
Inevitably, the victims began to receive late payment notices from their mortgage holders. Hawkins told them to ignore those notices. In some cases, Hawkins had homeowners initiate bankruptcy proceedings, simply to slow down the foreclosure process, according to the feds.
Federal officials say Hawkins, Richard Stevens, Christina Caveny and Mark Stein defrauded at least 70 homeowners out of almost $250,000. Caveny and Stevens have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later this year. Stein is still awaiting trial.