Crime

Modesto man gets nearly 2 years in prison for mortgage scam

A Modesto man was sentenced Monday to one year 10 months in federal prison for his role in a foreclosure rescue scam that bilked nearly $5 million from more than 1,000 victims throughout California.

Brent Medearis, 48, and others preyed on people desperate to keep from losing their homes to foreclosure from 2008 to 2010, authorities said. The conspirators filed phony property records and bankruptcy documents to stall foreclosures while collecting fees from anxious owners, whose homes were not saved.

Believing that investors were buying their mortgages at discounted prices, clients paid initial fees of $1,750 to $6,500 and monthly payments of $850 to $1,500.

“It is particularly vile for fraudsters to target and take advantage of individuals who are scared, vulnerable and simply trying to protect their families and save their home,” said Michael P. Stephens, acting inspector general with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, in a news release.

Workers in the Stanislaus County Clerk-Recorder’s Office detected suspicious filings and tipped off authorities in June 2009, leading to a 21/2-year investigation throughout Northern California by the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office real estate fraud unit, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service and the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Inspectors found about 30 victims in Stanislaus County.

The Modesto Bee reported in late 2011 that the state Department of Real Estate had ordered Medearis, who was not licensed as a real estate broker in California, to quit acting like one. The order, apparently unrelated to the criminal prosecution, said Medearis, who formerly lived in Empire, modified loans for properties in Modesto and Linden. A website said he was chief executive officer of Modesto-based VIP Financial Services.

Other conspirators received stiffer prison terms from U.S. District Judge William Shubb in Sacramento: five years for Jewel Hinkles, also known as Cydney Sanchez, 64, of Los Angeles; three years for Jesse Wheeler, 37, of Roseville; and 21/2 years for Cynthia Corn, 61, of Oakland.

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