Defendant Sentenced to Five Year Prison Term in Foreclosure Fraud Scam

OAKLAND -- Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley and California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced today that Angeline Lisa Lizarrago, 69, was sentenced to a term of five years in prison following her conviction of Grand Theft and her admission that she was on bail from Madera County at the time she committed the offense and has a prior felony conviction for grand theft.

In addition to her prison sentence, Lizarrago has been ordered to pay $31,942 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.

With the changes in the laws due to realignment, the defendant will serve her sentence in an Alameda County jail, rather than in State Prison. This case represents one of the first in Alameda County in which a defendant will serve a lengthy State Prison sentence in a local jail facility.

On September 29, 2010, the Alameda County District Attorney and the California Attorney General’s offices jointly charged Lizarrago of the Avemos Financial Group in Fremont with 23 felony counts stemming from a foreclosure fraud scam. The criminal charges alleged that Lizarrago and her co-defendant, real estate licensed broker Michael Douglas Young, 68, committed fraud and theft against financially distressed homeowners from throughout Northern California.

From June 2008 through October, 2009 Lizarrago and Young targeted Spanish-speaking homeowners as well as Southeast Asian immigrants, all desperate to save their homes. Lizarrago, the owner of Avemos Financial Group and Young, Avemos’s general manager, promised clients they would take steps to stop banks from immediately foreclosing on homes and to renegotiate clients’ loans to reflect the homes’ current market values. Clients paid $1,500 and more for just entering her business and filing out information forms. Lizarrago and Young guaranteed to refund the fees if they were unsuccessful in securing a loan. Most of Avemos’s clients, who did not have the income to avert foreclosure through a loan modification, lost their homes in the foreclosure process and never received a refund from Avemos.

“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,” states 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.”

“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.”

The Alameda County DA’s Office has created the Homeowner Education and Loan Protection (H.E.L.P.) Program, a model program and blueprint to address crimes involving real estate on a multi-disciplinary, multi-system collaborative basis. H.E.L.P. is a joint effort of public and private agencies, disciplines, and individuals, facilitated by the District Attorney’s leadership. Under the H.E.L.P. umbrella, the District Attorney, the California Attorney General, State and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies, Financial Institutions, Non-Profit Housing Counselors, Consumer Protection Groups, and Probation collaborate to address the dangers of real estate fraud against homeowners.

The charges against both Lizarrago and Young were based upon 11 cases of fraud and theft but prosecutors believe there are more than 50 victims. Michael Young has pled not guilty to the felony charges and is scheduled for jury trial on January 23, 2012. The investigation into further criminal actions by Lizarrago and Young is ongoing.

Anyone with information concerning the actions of the Avemos Group or the defendants is encouraged to call the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office at 1-877-288-2882.

Posted on Nov 23, 2011