CINCINNATI — A federal grand jury charged 11 people in five states in connection to a scheme to defraud homeowners by making phony promises about being able to negotiate with mortgage lenders and protect homes from foreclosure, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday.
The indictment named MVP Home Solutions, aka Stay In or Walk Away; Bolden Pinnacle Group Corp., aka Home Advisory Services Network and Home Advisory Services Group; and Silverstein & Wolf Corp. as the companies in the scheme.
Authorities said the group would use multilevel marketing and promise affiliates commissions for recruiting distressed homeowners. They encouraged affiliates to be aggressive in recruiting homeowners, using online databases and court records to identify vulnerable, financially stressed homeowners who had received foreclosure notices, the Department of Justice said in a news release.
Some of the co-conspirators mailed out more than 22,000 postcards in southern Ohio and elsewhere, promising that they could "stop foreclosure" or "stop the sheriff sale" for a fixed fee, authorities said. The companies claimed they could negotiate to buy mortgage notes at a discount, negotiate the release of mortgage loans through a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure sale, stop an imminent foreclosure sale, remove a mortgage lien and achieve short sale prices at a fraction of the outstanding lien.
"These programs were fraudulent," U.S. Attorney Ben Glassman said. "The defensants performed virtually no negotiations on behalf of the homeowners and never successfully purchased a mortgage note or provided a new, lower-cost mortgage. They never removed a mortgage lien or performed short sales as advertised.
The indictment includes one county of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, four counts of mail fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, 12 counts of bankruptcy fraud, one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Eight of the 11 people indicted have been arrested, authorities said. They include Lorin K. Buckner, 62, of Hamilton, Ohio; Garrett Stevenson, 41, of Cincinnati; Damien Byrd, 40, of Norfolk, Virginia; Stacy Kay Slaughter, 58, of Gahanna, Ohio; Marcus A. Mullings Jr., 57, of Hackensack, New Jersey; Talia Marie Stephen-Millings, aka Marie Hightower, 36, of Hackensack, New Jersey; Amal Mahepaul Balmacoon, aka Martin, 37, of South Ozone Park, New York; and John Nelson, 66, of Brooklyn, New York.
Joel Harvey, 36, of Cincinnati; Dessalines Sealy, 55, of Brooklyn, New York; and Rafiq Bashir, 35, of Jacksonville, Florida, were also named in the indictment but have not been arrested, authorities said.