Police sought the public’s help Monday in tracking down one of two men who allegedly bilked four homeowners fearful of losing their homes to foreclosure out of more than $60,000.
Jose Angel Bernal was arrested on Dec. 5 and booked on suspicion of grand theft in connection with the alleged fraudulent home loan modification scheme, the Los Angeles Police Department reported. He was released that day on $20,000 bail.
Still at large is Bernal’s alleged accomplice, identified as Eduardo Linares. Neither man has been charged thus far, according to a District Attorney’s Office spokesman.
The pair operated two offices on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles: Home Preservation Services, Inc. and Cal First Mortgage Bankers. They targeted people who were facing foreclosures and told them they could help save their homes, according to LAPD Detective Manuel Segura.
“When the victims are close to losing their homes, they often place trust in people who sell them dreams and hope, but (who) ultimately steal their money,” Segura said at a news conference at police headquarters.
According to police, the alleged scheme primarily targeted Spanish-speaking homeowners through ads that ran on Christian Spanish AM radio station 1580 KBLA.
“The victims would pay large up-front advance fees to Bernal for his assistance in negotiating a loan modification with their mortgage lenders,” according to an LAPD statement which notes that charging advance fees for loan modifications has been restricted by law since October 2009.
“The victims were also told by the suspects that the money paid to the businesses would be given directly to the lenders to avoid the foreclosures,” according to police. “No services were rendered by the suspects, resulting in two victims being evicted from their homes after the foreclosure auction sales, despite paying thousands of dollars in ongoing fees.”
Linares was responsible for meeting with clients to complete paperwork and collect fees, as well as communicating with lenders, according to the LAPD.
Neither Bernal nor Linares possess valid California real estate licenses and only licensed brokers or salespeople can legally negotiate a loan modification, according to police.
Anyone with information on Linares’ whereabouts, or who may have been victimized in the alleged scheme, was urged to call Segura at (213) 486-6630, or (877) LAPD-247.
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