BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Two men have been sentenced to prison for their roles in an elaborate scheme that defrauded struggling homeowners in Connecticut and across the United States.
U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut Deirdre Daly announced the news Thursday, after U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill sentenced the California men in Bridgeport federal court.
Serj Geutssoyan, also known as "Anthony Kirk," a 34-year-old from Santa Ana, was sentenced to four years and four months in prison. Daniel Shiau, also known as "Scott Decker," a 30-year-old from Irvine, was sentenced to four years and 10 months.
They also were ordered to serve three years of supervised release and pay $2.4 million restitution.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Geutssoyan and Shiau were top-level salesmen in an extensive mortgage loan modification scheme. The scheme involved cold-calling homeowners and offering to provide mortgage loan modification services to those having trouble repaying their home mortgages -- in exchange for upfront fees.
The defendants told homeowners they already had been approved for loan modifications on extremely favorable terms, that the loan modifications already had been negotiated with the homeowners' lenders, that homeowners qualified for and would receive financial assistance under various government mortgage relief programs and that if for some reason the mortgage loan modifications fell through, the homeowners would be entitled to a full refund of their fees.
These assertions weren't true, and few homeowners ever received any type of mortgage loan modification through the scheme, and few homeowners received refunds of their fees. More than 1,000 homeowners suffered losses totaling more than $3 million.
The scheme operated using a wide variety of business names, including "First Choice Debt," "National Freedom Group," "Home Protection Firm," "Hardship Solutions" and others.
Aria Maleki was the ringleader, Daly said. He, Geutssoyan and Shiau, and four other Californians were indicted by a New Haven grand jury Jan. 21, 2016. They were charged with conspiracy and fraud offenses, and were arrested Jan. 26.
Maleki, Geutssoyan and Shiau each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Maleki was sentenced July 18 to nine years and four months in prison. He also forfeited approximately $350,000 investigators seized from various bank accounts, approximately $362,000 seized from a Bitcoin account, a $100,000 cashier's check and a 2013 Ferrari 458 Italia.
The other four defendants also have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.Assistant U.S. Attorney Avi Perry is prosecuting the case, and many agencies have been involved in the investigation, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Postal Inspection Service, Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Department of Housing and Urban Development and the FBI.
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