A 40-year-old Corona man who fraudulently obtained more than $50,000 in federal relief by falsely claiming to be a homeowner who lost his job during the Great Recession — and was thus unable to meet his mortgage obligations — was sentenced Monday to three years of probation and ordered to repay everything he stole.
Eliseo Delgado Jr. pleaded guilty in May to making a false claim on federal documents in order to receive money.
U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal in Riverside imposed the sentence stipulated under the plea agreement between the defense and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In addition to probation, Bernal ordered Delgado to pay $52,000 in restitution and a penalty totaling $5,500.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the defendant is believed to be the first person prosecuted specifically for defrauding the mortgage assistance component of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, started under the Bush administration and continued under the Obama administration in response to the 2008-09 economic downturn.
In November 2014, Delgado submitted an application to TARP’s Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program, declaring, “I lost my job. I fell behind on my mortgage payments in (January) 2014, earlier this year due to lack of income.” The application was processed by the California Housing Finance Authority as part of “Keep Your Home California,” according to court documents.
The program, using revenue from the “Hardest Hit Fund” established by Congress in 2010, disbursed money to low- and moderate-income individuals considered to have been significantly impacted by the recession.
After Delgado was approved for financial aid, he received mortgage assistance checks from the government over an 18-month period, raking in a total of $52,373, prosecutors said.
A red flag audit eventually revealed that the defendant was never unemployed, and in fact operated several businesses that he started, generating income to remain self-sufficient during the entire time he received bailout money, according to the government.
The U.S. Treasury Department and the Office of the Inspector General for TARP handled the investigation.
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