California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. has announced charges against two "callous con artists," Angeline Lisa Lizarrago of Fremont, Calif. and Michael Douglas Young of Los Gatos, Calif., who took thousands of dollars from dozens of struggling Northern California homeowners for foreclosure services never delivered. The two were arraigned on a 23-count complaint for felony fraud and theft they committed at their business, Avemos Financial Group, of Fremont, Calif.
"The housing crisis has been devastating for many Californians, and their pain has been sharpened by callous con artists like these," said Attorney General Brown. "Their arraignment today serves as a warning to people trying to save their homes from foreclosure that there are fraudulent operators out there who will take their money but do nothing to help."
From June 2008 to October 2009, Lizarrago and Young targeted Spanish-speaking homeowners as well as Southeast Asian immigrants, all desperate to save their homes.
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, the owner of Avenos, and Young, Avemos's general manager, promised they would take steps to stop banks from immediately foreclosing on their homes and renegotiate clients' loans to reflect their homes' current market value. Lizarrago and Young guaranteed a refund if they were unsuccessful. Many 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, Calif. that she owned 51 properties, many of which had been foreclosed upon, and she could find them a home in Fremont, Calif. She asked for an upfront 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.
The criminal charges against Lizarrago and Young are based on 11 cases of fraud and theft, and prosecutors believe there are 50 more victims who haven't been identified yet.
The California Department of Real Estate and the Fremont Police Department assisted in the investigation.
For more information, visit http://ag.ca.gov.