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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces 5-Year Sentence for Foreclosure Scam Targeting Northern California Homeowners
SACRAMENTO--- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced that Angeline Lisa Lizarrago, 69, of Fremont, was sentenced today to five years for a foreclosure scam in which dozens of struggling Bay Area and Central Valley homeowners paid for foreclosure services that were never delivered.
The case was investigated and prosecuted jointly by the Attorney General’s office and the office of Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley. The California Department of Real Estate and the Fremont Police Department assisted in the investigation.
“Protecting innocent homeowners from the empty promises by predators like Angeline Lizarrago is a top priority of my office,” Attorney General Harris said. “Those who take advantage of Californians facing foreclosure are not only breaking the law, they also are slowing California’s recovery from the economic recession. I am grateful to District Attorney O’Malley and other law enforcement leaders who have made a commitment to investigate and prosecute those who commit these crimes.”
Lizarrago was sentenced today in Alameda County Superior Court to five years and ordered to pay more than $31,000 in restitution to nine victims of her foreclosure scam. Two additional victims are seeking additional restitution; a restitution hearing was set for February 2012 to address their claims.
In September 2010, the Attorney General’s office and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office charged Lizarrago with 23 counts of felony fraud and theft committed at her Fremont business, Avemos Financial Group. The charges against Lizarrago and her co-defendant, Michael Douglas Young, 68, of Los Gatos, were based on 11 cases of fraud and theft totaling more than $50,000.
“The Alameda County DA’s office will remain highly vigilant in our effort to identify and prosecute people who prey upon distressed homeowners in these difficult economic times,” said District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley. “We applaud the joint efforts of the California Department of Real Estate, the Fremont Police Department, the California Attorney General and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office that brought defendant Lizarrago to justice.”
From June 2008 to October 2009, Lizarrago, owner of Avemos, and Young, the general manager, targeted Spanish-speaking homeowners, as well as Southeast Asian immigrants, who were desperate to save their homes.
Victims of the scam were located throughout the Bay Area, including San Leandro, Hayward, Oakland, South San Francisco, and Fremont. There were also a substantial number of victims from the Central Valley.
People stood in line for hours to get into Avemos’s waiting room, which was decorated with shrines to the Virgin Mary. Clients seeking help typically paid $1,500 initially. Lizarrago promised she would take steps to stop banks from foreclosing on clients’ homes and renegotiate their loans to lower monthly loan payments and reflect their homes’ current market value. Lizarrago guaranteed a refund if they were unsuccessful. Many clients lost their homes in foreclosure and did not receive a refund.
Lizarrago also took advantage of the foreclosure crisis in another way. She told an 89-year-old man and his wife, who wanted to move away from Stockton, that she owned 51 properties, many of which had been foreclosed upon, and she could find them a home in Fremont. She asked for an up-front fee, which she promised to return with interest once the purchase was made. In a series of payments, the couple gave Lizarrago $25,000. She never found them a home, nor returned their money.
Lizarrago was on bail from Madera County at the time she committed the offense and she has a prior felony conviction for grand theft. Young, who pled not guilty to the felony charges, is scheduled for jury trial on January 23, 2012.
Attorney General Harris formed a Mortgage Fraud Strike Force in May 2011 to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud. In August, the Strike Force filed its first suit against a law firm that took millions from desperate homeowners: http://oag.ca.gov/news/press_release?id=2552&y=&m=
For tips on how to avoid mortgage fraud and other resources, and to report fraud or file a complaint, visit http://oag.ca.gov/consumers/loan-modification.
The investigation into further criminal actions by Lizarrago and Young is ongoing; to share information about the Avemos Group or the defendants, please call the Alameda County District Attorney’s office at (877) 288-2882.
For more information, see the attachment to the online version of this release at http://oag.ca.gov/.