Seven people accused of perpetrating a home loan modification scam that ripped off hundreds of Inland Empire residents are facing a string of felony charges, state officials said Wednesday.
The California Attorney General's Office announced a 24-count complaint alleging conspiracy, grand theft and state income tax evasion against Nehad "Nick" Ayyoub, 57, of San Bernardino; James Clemons, 55, of Riverside County; Wissam Ismall, 32, of Riverside County; Eddie Mercado, 57, of San Bernardino; Ghydan Ayyoub Rabadi, 38, of Los Angeles; Zaid Rabadi; 49, of Los Angeles; and Majid Safaie, 60, of Orange County.
All of the defendants are behind bars in correctional facilities in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Their bail amounts range from $50,000 to $75,000.
Prosecutors allege Ayyoub was the mastermind behind the scam, which ran from 2007 to 2010 and targeted mainly San Bernardino-area residents.
The defendant ran three businesses -- Firm Loans, First Choice Debt Solutions and Insurance and Investments Inc., all of which were based in San Bernardino County.
Ayyoub and his co-defendants preyed upon property owners at risk of defaulting on their mortgages and seeking to get their monthly payments down, according to the attorney general's office.
The scam artists told victims they could negotiate with their loan servicers and banks to get loan modifications, prosecutors allege. But before providing any service, the property owners would have to make up-front payments -- which supposedly would be fully refunded if at any time they were not satisfied, according to the government.
Payments ranged from $1,500 to $10,000, according to court documents. The defendants allegedly instructed homeowners to stop paying their mortgages and instead write checks only to Ayyoub and his co-conspirators.
Prosecutors believe as many as 1,550 homeowners were victimized.
"These individuals profited from the fear and desperation of hard- working Californians, who were simply fighting to keep their homes during the height of our state's foreclosure crisis," said Attorney General Kamala Harris. "This kind of predatory activity is reprehensible."
Agents with the California Attorney General's Bureau of Investigations, along with inspectors from the California Franchise Tax Board, conducted the investigation.
Anyone who believes they may have been snared in the scam was urged to file an online complaint at http://oag.ca.gov/consumers.
If convicted, the defendants could face anywhere from eight to 12 years in prison.
The case was filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court.
– City News Service.