Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

A 37-year-old Yorba Linda man made his initial appearance in court Monday on allegations that he was the ringleader of a $390,000 scheme involving loan modification companies that preyed on mostly Spanish-speaking victims throughout the state.

Carlos Jose Centeno, who was arrested New Year’s Day on a warrant, had his arraignment postponed until Wednesday, when a judge will also review his $390,000 bail, according to Deputy District Attorney Pete Pierce.

Centeno and four other defendants, who have not yet been taken in custody, are accused of bilking about two dozen victims out of fees for helping them renegotiate their home loans, Pierce said. Centeno faces 121 felony counts, including conspiracy and grand theft, involving Foreclosure Prevention Department and Orange-based Debt Settlers of America.

Centeno is the registered owner of Foreclosure Prevention Department, which has a listed address in Irvine that is just a post office box, Pierce said. Centeno is a “principal” executive in Debt Settlers of America, according to the prosecutor.

It is illegal to charge upfront fees for loan modification services, Pierce said. Centeno faces grand theft charges because investigators allege he did not intend to provide any services at all, Pierce said.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department led the investigation, Pierce said.

The co-defendants include Centeno’s brother, Rick Centeno, and wife, Lizeth Arzate. Co-defendants Susie Rabadan and Hector Valdivia worked for Debt Settlers and are considered lesser players in the alleged scams from the end of 2009 through 2012, Pierce said.

City News Service

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