Former Realtor Who Remained a Fugitive for Several Years Convicted of Charges in Mortgage Elimination Scheme
A former El Monte resident who managed the sales staff for a program that falsely promised to eliminate the debt owed by struggling homeowners has been found guilty by a federal jury for his role in a scheme that caused customers to lose money and, in many cases, their homes.
Ernesto Diaz, 66, a former realtor who operated a purported mortgage elimination program in Montebello known as Crown Point Education Inc., was found guilty of three counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Prior to the start of the trial, he also pleaded guilty to one count of failure to appear.
According to evidence presented at trial, Diaz and others advertised to distressed homeowners who sought relief from foreclosure and elimination of their mortgage debt. Diaz and others conducted seminars to convince homeowners that the Crown Point program could eliminate all or part of the existing balances on their mortgages, as well as save homes that were near or in foreclosure. Diaz told clients and prospective clients that the Crown Point program involved sending a series of documents to lenders and others to eliminate the clients’ mortgages. Clients were falsely told that the Crown Point program would result in the elimination of their mortgage within six to eight months and that they would be able to obtain up to hundreds of thousands of dollars from their lenders.
After clients signed up for the program and paid a fee, usually $15,000 per property, Diaz and a codefendant directed others to mail packets of information to the clients’ lenders which falsely asserted that the client’s mortgages were invalid and that mortgages would be extinguished if the lenders did not respond. Many of the mailed documents were notarized to create the appearance of legitimacy, at times using a notary’s stamp without that notary’s knowledge or consent. Clients were instructed not to make their mortgage payments while the program was implemented.
Bankruptcy petitions and other legal papers were filed in order to delay foreclosure and eviction actions brought by mortgage lenders. This was done by forging the names of clients in the petitions filed. These delays had the effect of lulling homeowners into believing that the Crown Point program had been effective. In some cases, Diaz and others would cause some clients to unknowingly execute quitclaim deeds that would convey ownership of their homes.
Crown Point obtained nearly $5 million from approximately 400 clients who paid to participate in the Crown Point program. Numerous clients lost their properties in foreclosure sales and were evicted from their properties despite having participated in the Crown Point program.
Diaz entered into a plea agreement in 2012; however, he failed to appear on October 15, 2012, for a change of plea hearing following his arraignment. Diaz was not located after failing to appear and agents believed at the time that he fled to Mexico. Diaz remained a fugitive for approximately seven years until his arrest on October 30, 2019, when he was arrested by the FBI in Santa Ana. He is scheduled to be sentenced on November 15 and faces 130 years in federal prison.
This investigation was conducted by the FBI and is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office, Central District of California.