Howard R. Shmuckler of Virginia Beach, Va. has pled guilty to running a fraudulent loan modification business that received substantial fees but actually modified clients' mortgages in only a few cases. Christy Romero, Special Inspector General for the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP); Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office; and Jon T. Rymer, Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC-OIG); made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.
Shmuckler pled guilty to six counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Sentencing has been scheduled for June 22, 2012.
“Shmuckler pled guilty today to all but guaranteeing mortgage modifications to struggling homeowners if they agreed to pay him thousands of dollars in upfront fees,” said Romero. “After collecting fees from homeowners, Shmuckler performed little if any service in return and idly watched their homes fall into foreclosure one-by-one. Shmuckler was also quick to tout his legal credentials to clients, although at no point was he ever licensed to practice law in Virginia. This type of fraud scheme has devastating consequences for vulnerable homeowners, especially at a time when they’re in need of and seeking support through federal programs such as HAMP. SIGTARP and its law enforcement partners will stop the perpetrators of these scams in their tracks and bring them to justice.”
According to the statement of facts filed in court, Shmuckler owned and operated a Vienna, Va., mortgage rescue business known as The Shmuckler Group (TSG). According to TSG's Web site, TSG had approximately 1,100 clients. Shmuckler misrepresented that TSG had a success rate of 97 percent and falsely portrayed himself as an attorney licensed in Virginia. Based on these representations made by Shmuckler or client recruiters to induce potential clients to sign up for TSG services, TSG's clients provided the company with fees ranging from $2,500 to $25,000 to help modify the terms of their mortgages.
Court records indicate that Shmuckler instructed clients to terminate contact with their mortgage companies and to stop making payments to their lenders. TSG never facilitated a modification of the mortgages referenced in the statement of facts.