A federal judge this week sentenced an Orange County resident to more than eight years in prison for scamming struggling homeowners through mortgage modification scheme, according to officials.
Bryan D’Antonio, 50, of Brea, California, plead guilty last year to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, Judge Carter also ordered D’Antonio to pay $3.8 million in restitution.
As part of his guilty plea, D’Antonio admitted that telemarketing operations, Rodis Law Group and America’s Law Group, were fraudulent schemes that stole $9 million from more than 1,500 victims, according to officials.
“This defendant – a repeat telemarketing fraudster – took advantage of vulnerable homeowners facing foreclosure during the mortgage crisis,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “His two fake law firms promised homeowners assistance saving their homes and modifying their mortgages. The sad reality is both firms were nothing more than telemarketing scams.”
The telemarketers did not disclose to homeowners that Rodis Law and America’s Law were owned and operated by Bryan D’Antonio, a convicted felon who was prohibited from engaging in telemarketing.
The Orange County Register newspaper reported that D’Antonio apologized for his actions. He told the judge that he had made a “huge mistake.” More than 60 of his family members and friends attended the hearing, as well as several investors to a real estate business that D’Antonio has started in the years since his indictment, according to the newspaper.
“It got away from me,” D’Antonio, 50, told the judge about his stewardship of Rodis Law Group. “Misrepresentations were made. We were not responsive to our customers. People were hurt.”
Officials stated that D’Antonio admitted that, between October 2008 and June 2009, he participated in a scheme with Ronald Rodis, Charles Wayne Farris, and others to induce homeowners to pay between $3,500 and $5,500 for the services of Rodis Law and its successor entity, America’s Law.
Both Rodis Law and America’s Law advertised on radio stations nationwide, urging struggling homeowners to call a toll-free number and stating that the companies consisted of “a team of experienced attorneys” who were “highly skilled in negotiating lower interest rates and even lowering your principal balance.”
In fact, both Rodis and America’s were telemarketing operations that never had teams of experienced attorneys. D’Antonio collected these payments from distressed homeowners, without providing anything of value to the overwhelming majority of them.
During much of the scheme, Ronald Rodis was the only attorney at RLG.
“While still under court supervision after serving a prison term in another telemarketing case, D’Antonio oversaw what was essentially a boiler room operation that preyed upon struggling homeowners,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “Hundreds of victims lost millions of dollars after D’Antonio’s employees told a series of lies that misrepresented nearly every aspect of the business. Today’s lengthy sentence will ensure that he will not have the opportunity to defraud unsuspecting victims for many years.”
D’Antonio was previously convicted of mail and wire fraud and sentenced to four years in federal prison for his participation in a medical billing scheme.
He was also subject to a permanent injunction prohibiting him from having any involvement with any business that engaged in telemarketing or misrepresented the services it would provide.
D’Antonio admitted that he started Rodis Law while he was still on supervised release from his prior conviction.
In violation of D’Antonio’s permanent injunction, Rodis Law and America’s Law sold their services through an extensive telemarketing operation, according to officials.
Rodis Law and America’s Law telemarketers working for D’Antonio made numerous misrepresentations regarding the companies’ ability to negotiate loan modifications for homeowners.
For example, the telemarketers stated that Rodis Law and America’s Law had been in business for 11 years when in fact the company had only opened in October 2008. They falsely stated that Rodis Law and America’s Law routinely obtained positive results for homeowners, including lower monthly payments, reductions in principal balance and lower interest rates.
In fact, positive results were rarely achieved for any Rodis Law or America’s Law clients. Telemarketers also falsely reiterated that homeowners would have a team of attorneys and real estate professionals assigned to their case.
In connection with his guilty plea, D’Antonio admitted that the Rodis Law and America’s Law schemes fraudulently obtained approximately $9 million from more than 1,500 victims.
“Mr. D’Antonio preyed upon victims who were already experiencing difficult circumstances and robbed them of their remaining financial resources,” said Assistant Director in Charge Deirdre L. Fike of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Homeowners seeking financial assistance should thoroughly investigate businesses before investing their money in advance of receiving services.”
D’Antonio’s co-defendants, Charles Wayne Farris and Ronald Rodis, both previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Farris and Rodis are scheduled to be sentenced on May 1.
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