Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Phoenix Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding 1,800 Victims in Foreclosure Rescue Scam

Luis Belevan, 34, of Phoenix, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. Belevan and his co-conspirator, were charged with defrauding at least 1,800 local distressed homeowners out of a $1,595 up-front fee for bogus promises of assistance in avoiding home foreclosure in 2009 and 2010.

“This defendant, owner of The Guardian Group, LLC, left over 1,800 victims in his wake,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel. “The defendant used false promises on the company website to convince consumers that it could help them save their home—if the homeowner paid an upfront fee. The unfortunate reality was that the homeowners were never helped and they were scammed out of their hard-earned money. I want to thank the FBI for its work in this investigation and its continued efforts to address mortgage fraud.”

Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix Division, James L. Turgal, said, “The Phoenix metropolitan area has been severely impacted by the vast number of housing foreclosures. In many instances, a frustrated public, desperate to save their homes, have turned to re-modification companies, only to find empty promises and no relief. The plea of Belevan illustrates but one example of an individual taking advantage of the public’s trust and vulnerability by defrauding the public for their own personal gain. The FBI’s Mortgage Fraud Task Force and the United States Attorney’s Office will continue to investigate and prosecute those involved in foreclosure rescue scams to the fullest extent of the law.”

Belevan admitted in his guilty plea proceedings to telling homeowners who were unable to make their mortgage payments that his company, The Guardian Group, would purchase and refinance their mortgages based on the lower property values that followed the housing market crash of 2007.

Belevan falsely claimed that his company had access to a $40 billion hedge fund for this purpose, when it actually had no financing at all. Belevan’s company charged each homeowner a $1,595 up front fee, generating almost $3 million in funds in just nine months, which he and others used for personal expenses and for other failed business ventures.

A conviction for conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, a $250,000, or both. In determining an actual sentence, the judge will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. The judge, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.

As part of his plea agreement, Belevan agreed to pay restitution to the victims in the amount of $2,871,000.

Sentencing is set before Judge Teilborg on January 9, 2012.

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The prosecution is being handled by Monica Klapper, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.

RELEASE NUMBER: 2011-230(Belevan)

Source: FBI Phoenix

Arizona Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Counterfeit Software Conspiracy

Christopher Loring Walters, 31, of Laveen, Ariz., was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow to 27 months in federal prison. Walters pleaded guilty on February 24, 2011, to one count of conspiracy, one count of mail fraud, and one count of criminal copyright Infringement for his role in selling counterfeit brand-name software.

“Intellectual property crimes rob legitimate companies of revenue and deny customers quality, licensed products,” says Ann Birmingham Scheel, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. “We appreciate the diligence of the Software & Information Industry Association for bringing this case to the attention of our law enforcement partners.”

“Software counterfeiters cost legitimate businesses billions in lost revenue,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge James L. Turgal, Jr. “Investigating intellectual property theft is a top priority of the FBI’s Cyber Program and we will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement to combat these types of crimes.”

Between November 2003 and February 2006, Walters and his co-defendant, Matthew Purse, deceived consumers by mass producing counterfeit copies of brand-name software, from companies such as Adobe, Symantec, and others, and selling them for a discounted price over the Internet while claiming to be authorized distributors. They sold the counterfeit software using various eBay merchant accounts and commercial websites such as Walters often used an alias to set up merchant and bank accounts in order to conceal his involvement in the criminal activity. Purse was sentenced in January 2010 and served approximately 13 months in federal prison for his role in the conspiracy.

“Software piracy impacts consumers, hurts American businesses and damages our economy,” said Keith Kupferschmid, General Counsel and Senior Vice President for Intellectual Property Policy & Enforcement at the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA)—which launched the initial investigation into Walters’ piracy schemes. “For these reasons, SIIA leads the industry’s most aggressive anti-piracy campaign, identifying and shutting down sites that peddle illegal software. The Walters case is a prime example of SIIA’s commitment to fighting software piracy. And as Walters found out, software piracy is a serious crime that can land you in federal prison.”

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and stemmed from a referral from the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA). The prosecution was handled by Peter Sexton and Jennifer Levinson, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.


RELEASE NUMBER: 2011-233(Walters)

Source: FBI - Phoenix