United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy today announced the sentencing of two defendants who participated in an Oceanside telemarking operation dubbed 1st American Law Center. Defendants Shelveen Shraneel Singh and Johnathon Daniel Hearn were each sentenced yesterday to nine years and two years in prison, respectively, before District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez for their roles in defrauding more than 4,000 desperate homeowners who were seeking to modify their mortgages. All told, the operation resulted in victim losses of over $11 million.

According to documents filed in court, Shelveen Singh was a leading telemarketer who sold loan modification services on behalf of 1st American Law Center at a satellite office in Riverside. Among other lies, Singh and his co-defendants falsely promised to have a team of attorneys “pre-screen” clients and falsely boasted that 1st American had a 98 percent success rate in obtaining loan modifications for clients. 1st American Law Center’s telemarketers were encouraged to say virtually anything to close a sale and employed a variety of ruses, including pretending to have helped thousands of happy homeowners save their homes; claiming to have been in business for 20 years; promising that that clients’ fees would be deposited into a client-trust account and remain untouched until the client was satisfied; and assuring clients that they were protected by a money-back guarantee. Sadly, the telemarketers even persuaded homeowners to pay the company’s fees instead of using their limited funds to stay current on their mortgage payments.

The truth was devastating to the thousands of homeowners taken in by 1st American Law Center’s offer of help and hope. As participants in the scheme have admitted, there was no selective pre-screening process conducted by an attorney. Even the token attorney affiliated with the operation did not pre-screen applications, work on clients’ loan modification cases, or negotiate with lenders. Rather than having thousands of satisfied clients, 1st American Law Center had thousands of unsatisfied former clients who did not have their loans modified or receive refunds as promised. Client funds were not protected and safe, but instead controlled by a co-schemer, who funneled money out of the attorney trust account into accounts that he controlled, using the money to pay himself, other employees, or company expenses.

In addition to the standard lies told by other telemarketers, Singh employed numerous other deceptive acts to get money out of clients. This included withdrawing funds from client accounts without their permission and threatening clients with physical harm. Singh even impersonated a law enforcement officer and threatened to arrest clients if they did not pay 1st American Law Center’s fees.

In imposing the 110-month sentence, Judge Benitez remarked that Singh had preyed upon especially vulnerable victims. The judge noted that instead of paying restitution for a previous crime as required, Singh instead spent money on himself, racking up credit card charges that he later discharged in bankruptcy, and purchasing for himself an expensive Mercedes. Calling him a “dirty businessman,” Judge Benitez commented that it was actions like Singh’s that contributed to the erosion of trust in our society.

Hearn, another telemarketer, was also sentenced yesterday. Judge Benitez imposed a sentence of 24 months in custody.

Other defendants involved in the same scheme have previously been sentenced. Gary Bobel received a sentence of 92 months in custody. Scott Thomas Spencer received a total sentence of 43 months in custody, and Travis Iverson received a sentence of 24 months in custody. The attorney associated with 1st American Law Center, Dean Chandler, and another defendant, Michael Eccles are currently awaiting trial. They next appear in court on March 3, 2014.

Victims of 1st American Law Center may contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office Victim/Witness Coordinator Polly Montano at (619) 546-8921 if they have questions.

Defendant in Criminal Case No. 12CR4031-BEN

Shelveen Shraneel Singh, 26 Corona, California

110 months in custody on count six
three years of supervised release
restitution to be determined
Defendant in Criminal Case No. 12CR3041-BEN

Johnathon Daniel Hearn, 31 Oceanside, California
24 months in custody
three years of supervised release
restitution to be determined

Participating Agencies
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation

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