Felix Rangel of Oxnard worked for years to save the money needed for a down payment on his home. Candy Deloera of Ventura also wanted the "American Dream" and finally got it.
"We rented a room in Santa Barbara to save for a down payment to buy the American Dream, to buy a home," said Deloera.
But they both lost their home while trying to get what they thought would be a mortgage loan modification with the help of Maria Victoria Santos.
Santos ran a business out of an office building in Ventura that is now empty. She promised to save her clients' homes from foreclosure. But her victims lost their homes and a lot of money.
"They lure their victims in through making a lot of promises that aren't true and the main promise is that they're going to save their home from foreclosure. In reality what they do is collect money upfront and they do little to no work," siad Dominic Kardum, Venutra County deputy district attorney.
Santos advertised on radio and through flyers mostly to Spanish-speaking homeowners desperately hoping to avoid foreclosure.
Eventually, Santos and three partners were arrested and prosecuted by the Ventura County D.A.'s Office.
"We were successful, we were able to obtain multiple felony convictions. Ms. Santos plead guilty to seven felony convictions," siad Kardum.
Unfortunately, loan modification scams happen all too often, which is why Ventura County has organized to fight back with the Real Estate Fraud Advisory Team (REFAT).
"It's a unique collaboration between the district attorney's office and local real estate professionals. The basic mission of the real estate fraud advisory team is to prevent, report and detect real estate fraud," said Janet Dorsey, president of the Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors.
Here are some ways you can avoid loan fraud:
- Never pay up-front fees for assistance. It is illegal to ask for those fees.
- Don't make payments to anyone but your lender.
- Don't stop making your payments either. It will only make matters worse.
- Stay away from anyone guaranteeing they can get you a loan modification or a short sale.
If you need a loan modification, try contacting your lender directly. If that doesn't work, you can contact some legitimate help organizations: