A West Hollywood man was sentenced Monday to more than 12 years in federal prison for orchestrating a real estate fraud scheme that victimized more than 2,000 homeowners, involved fraudulent filings that affected the title to properties across the country and caused more than $7 million in losses.
Patrick Joseph Soria, 35, was sentenced to the 152-month term by U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who called the defendant “a skillful con man who created a very sophisticated scheme.”
Fischer also stated that the case was not the largest she has presided over in terms of dollars, “but it is the most brazen and heartless.”
A restitution hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25.
Soria pleaded guilty on March 2 in Los Angeles to one federal count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and contempt of court.
From January 2015 to June 2018, Soria stole money from homeowners and would-be home buyers through a two-pronged scheme. First, he hijacked title to properties through fraudulent title filings done at county recorders’ offices around the country. Soria faked the filings to make it appear that he owned the properties, and then “sold” the properties to victims who thought they were buying the homes from the true owner.
In fact, Soria never owned the homes, and he instead used the victims’ “purchase” money for his own personal expenses, including escort services, stays at luxury hotels, and Bentley and Lamborghini car rentals, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In the second part of the scheme, Soria convinced homeowners that he could help them with their mortgages, either by assisting them with a loan modification or by taking over their mortgage from their lender, with the promised result, either way, of reducing their mortgage payments.
He told them that he had achieved success in this area in the past, and he convinced them that he was trying to help them, often befriending them to gain their trust and give them hope. But as Fischer stated at the sentencing hearing, “Mr. Soria turned their hopes into a nightmare.”
After gaining the victims’ trust, Soria convinced homeowners to stop paying their real lender and to start paying him. Through yet more fraudulent filings, Soria deceived his victims into believing he had taken over their mortgages. He also falsely lulled victims into doing nothing to protect themselves when they started receiving foreclosure and eviction notices. Many of the homeowners targeted in the scheme lost their homes.
As part of the fraud, Soria used company names such as HBSC US and Deutsche Mellon National Asset LLC, designed to trick homeowners into thinking that those companies were real. He also took advantage of the complex mix of lenders, trustees, beneficiaries and servicers in the mortgage market, and the assignments of mortgage loans between entities, to confuse homeowners and to make it seem as if he did in fact own the properties and mortgages, prosecutors said.
More than 2,000 individuals were victimized through the scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Soria admitted that losses totaled more than $7.6 million. In addition to causing losses to individual homeowners, the fraud scheme also victimized numerous lenders who held mortgages on, or other interests in, properties targeted in the scheme, prosecutors said.
The targeted properties were located nationwide, including Vernon, Beverly Hills, Santa Ana, Yorba Linda and Anaheim.
In a related matter, Soria committed numerous acts of contempt of court in a related civil case before Fischer brought by Nationstar Mortgage LLC, including willfully spending funds subject to an asset freeze. The contempt resulted in his incarceration in 2018, and criminal charges filed by the court in 2019.