Southern California Man Pleads Guilty to Running a Foreclosure Rescue Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 05, 2012|
FRESNO, CA—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced today that John Marcus Desenberg, of Westlake Village, California, pleaded guilty before United Stated District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill to two counts of mail fraud. Desenberg also agreed to the forfeiture of all property and proceeds obtained as a result of such violations, including, but not limited to, a personal money judgment in the amount of $300,000.
Desenberg, doing business as Creative Lending Solutions, devised a scheme targeted at distressed homeowners. It was part of the scheme that Desenberg would get referrals from individuals who marketed a “Fresh Start” program via the Internet, radio, and by advertisements sent through the U.S. mail to California homeowners nearing foreclosure. Desenberg would then contact other individuals with whom he did business in order for them to find an investor to purchase the home from the distressed homeowner. Once this investor was found and the home was sold to the investor, the homeowner would be allowed to stay in their home and would purportedly work on repairing their credit during the specified time period. At the end of the period, the distressed homeowner would be given the option of purchasing their home back from the investor.
It was part of the scheme that Desenberg fraudulently induced homeowners to sign an approval form authorizing some of the sale proceeds to be given to Creative Lending Solutions as payment for fees, including, but not limited to, a finder’s fee and a consultation fee in an amount typically ranging from $15,000 to $20,000. He also held back monies from the distressed homeowner for the purported payment of the mortgage for a specified time period, which was typically twelve months. Desenberg promised the homeowners that he would monitor their situation for the 12-month time period, and that either he would make the mortgage payments out of the hold-back reserve money or that he would ensure that the investor made the mortgage payments. Although Desenberg promised these things, he did not monitor their situation and did not ensure the mortgage payments were made. Most homes ended up in foreclosure and victims lost more than $300,000.
The maximum statutory penalty for each count of mail fraud is 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and up to three years’ supervised release following incarceration. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. Sentencing is scheduled for May 21, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
The case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Merced County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Michele Thielhorn and Jeremy Jehangiri are prosecuting the case.