Two San Diego County men were sentenced to prison Tuesday after being convicted in a nationwide scam that bilked more than 3,000 homeowners out of $13 million with phony promises to renegotiate their home loans.
Dean Gregory Chandler, 50, of Fallbrook was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison. Michael Eccles, 35, of Vista was sentenced to five years.
Chandler was president, attorney and chief executive of Oceanside-based 1st American Law Center. Eccles was a manager in one of the company's telemarketing call centers.
The two were convicted of multiple counts of fraud in November 2014 in federal court in San Diego.
Created in 2009 at the height of the home mortgage crisis, the company promised to help homeowners keep their homes by renegotiating their loans. The average "attorney retainer fee" was $3,495, according to federal prosecutors.
"Nearly all of the statements made by telemarketers to clients were lies," prosecutors said during a three-week jury trial.
Telemarketers used high-pressure tactics to persuade desperate homeowners to pay the company's fees instead of their mortgage payments. Many were given "money back" guarantees that were never honored, prosecutors said.
In its advertising, the company claimed a 98% success rate in persuading lending companies to modify the loans. In fact, the firm failed in 3 out of every 4 cases, prosecutors said.
"The real tragedy of this case is that the defendants chose to profit from the suffering of others," U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy said.
Among the victims, prosecutors said, was a couple in their 70s from Evansville, Ind., who wanted to avoid losing their home, which they had modified to help their paraplegic son. The couple lost their money and their home, prosecutors said.
With the sentencing of Chandler and Eccles, 13 people have been sentenced in the 1st American Law Center case.