LAS VEGAS (KSNV) -- A local mortgage scam said to be worth more than $1 million as turned in to a nationwide manhunt. Three suspects are still on the run while others who are accused told a judge they're not guilty. News 3's Sergio Avila has been following the case and has the story.
There are eight total suspects here in Nevada and five of them have been booked on several charges including mortgage fraud.
Authorities are searching the country trying to find those still missing.
Law enforcement sources are telling us they're working nationally with several different local and federal agencies to try and find lead suspect Jose Benjamin Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is accused of running a mortgage scam with seven others. The attorney general accuses them of costing people like Rose Loob their homes while stealing from them in the process.
“I think it's awful. I'm 80-years-old, so I don't know. I hope they catch him,” Loob said.
The group, operated under the business names Majestic Group, LLC, and Nevada Sky Premier, LLC. They falsely promised to eliminate mortgage debts for approximately 96 distressed homeowners who in total as a group paid nearly $1.5 million dollars for help that they never received.
Instead of legitimately working on behalf of the homeowners, worthless “sovereignty” paperwork was sent to lenders—paperwork that did nothing to affect the mortgage of a single homeowner.
Three of the suspects Lorena Anzu, Jose Navidad, and Yanay Aguirre all pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday morning.
But primary suspect Rodriguez remains on the run and the attorney general's office tells us he's proven elusive -- managing to elude authorities for days.
News 3 scoured the internet looking for a photo of him and found very few.
Anzu and Navidad's attorney Michael Harker tells News 3 his clients are looking forward to clearing their names.
“Both my clients understand the seriousness of the charges and both pleaded not guilty and plan to vigorously defend the charges against them,” Harker said.
This case also has ties to California.
One suspect Franklin Marquez was arrested in San Diego and subsequently Los Angeles charged with running the same scam.
News 3 reported exclusively last Friday, a Las Vegas grand jury indicted eight suspects earlier this month, including Marquez, accusing them of tricking homeowners into a program they called new start.
The attorney general's office says they promised to save people's homes from foreclosure but required victims to pay them big bucks while they pocketed the money and did nothing.
Loob tells us she paid out more than $16,000 and says she'll never be the same.
“When anybody calls on the phone to buy this or that I just say I'm not interested and I hang up.” Loob said.
Distressed homeowners were recruited from seminars to participate in the company’s “new start”, “principle reduction”, or “foreclosure back” programs that promised, in exchange for fees, that Majestic Group or its later named counterpart Nevada Sky, would eliminate the homeowners’ mortgage woes within six to nine months through a process that a involved quit-claiming their property over to a trust.
Victims were told that a secret group of investors would purchase all of the homes owned by the trust at a substantially reduced cost and then restore the victims to ownership in their respective homes.
The company failed to tell distressed homeowners that their scheme did not work. Many of the company’s clients lost their houses to foreclosure and were evicted from their houses as a result of the scheme.
The company even went to far as to file inappropriate bankruptcy documents in the names of some Majestic Group clients to delay foreclosure and eviction, in many cases without the knowledge or consent of the client.
A former employee of Rodriguez, too afraid to go on camera told us they noticed a deceptive pattern in the office and quickly quit.
There instinct was right and the former boss is now a fugitive on the run.