Whittier Woman Sentenced to Nearly Six Years in Prison for Having Duped 400 Victim Homeowners—Many Spanish Speakers—of Nearly $4 Million with False Promises of Eliminating Their Mortgages
LOS ANGELES—A Whittier woman was sentenced today to nearly six years in prison for her lead role in a scheme that falsely promised to eliminate mortgage debts for approximately 400 distressed homeowners who each paid a $15,000 fee, totaling nearly $4 million in victim payments. Instead of working on behalf of the homeowners, the woman simply sent worthless “Sovereign Citizen” paperwork to lenders—paperwork that did nothing to affect the mortgage of a single homeowner.
Maria Marcela Gonzalez, 45, was sentenced by Judge Stephen V. Wilson in United States District Court in Los Angeles, for two counts of making a false bankruptcy declaration. In rejecting her request for a probationary sentence and imposing the 70-month sentence, Judge Wilson said that the defendant’s actions were “callous and in gross disregard of the law.”
Gonzalez, who pled guilty in July of this year, started the Crown Point Education Inc. scheme in early 2010 and operated from offices in Montebello. She admitted in her plea agreement that she spoke at seminars to recruit distressed homeowners and salespersons in the Crown Point program and ran the day-to-day operations of the scheme. Many of the victims were primarily or exclusively Spanish speakers.
In her plea agreement, Gonzalez admitted that she and others promised distressed homeowners at these seminars that, in exchange for fees that were generally $15,000 per property, Crown Point would eliminate the homeowners’ mortgages within six to eight months through a secret process that involved sending packets of documents to lenders. Even though she told victims that she could eliminate their mortgage woes, Gonzalez admitted in her plea agreement that the process had never been successful. Gonzalez failed to tell distressed homeowners that earlier Crown Point clients had lost their houses to foreclosure and been evicted from their houses.
In the plea agreement, Gonzalez admitted that she worked with co-schemer Jude Lopez, who was also convicted and sentenced to a probationary term, and Ernesto Diaz, who was charged but failed to appear and is currently a fugitive. Lopez admitted in his plea agreement that he filed bankruptcy documents in the names of Crown Point clients to delay foreclosure and eviction. Diaz admitted in his plea agreement that Crown Point filed many bankruptcy documents without the knowledge of the company’s clients and that signatures of debtors and notaries were forged on many documents filed with the bankruptcy court.
The claims made to distressed homeowners were based on discredited Sovereign Citizen claims that mortgages are invalid because the banks did not actually lend the money used to fund mortgages, and the notes were securitized.
The case against Gonzalez, Diaz, and Lopez was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.