A Long Island man was one of three men charged Thursday in what federal prosecutors called the nation’s largest mortgage scam and the men stand accused of defrauding homeowners in all 50 states out of more than $18.5 million.
Justin Romano, 40, of Blue Point, was awaiting arraignment Thursday evening at U.S. District Court in Manhattan. His two alleged accomplices, Ped Abghari, 37, and Dionysius Fiumano, 43 – both of Irving, Calif. – were expected to be arraigned at a federal court in Los Angeles, officials said. The three men were each charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud and wire fraud and if convicted, face up to 20 years in federal prison.
Prosecutors said the men purchased lists of homeowners who had fallen behind on mortgage payments and then used telemarketers who offered assistance in applying for federal mortgage modification programs in exchange for an upfront fee. After falsely telling the homeowners they were preapproved for lower mortgage payments, they provided little or no service, prosecutors said. In total, the three are accused of running a scheme that defrauded over 8,000 homeowners in all 50 states and scammed more than $18.5 million, according to authorities.
Abghari, who used the nickname “Ted Allan,” was allegedly the owner of the telemarketing firm and Fiumano was his employee and oversaw the telemarketing sales staff, officials said. Romano, prosecutors said, allegedly held himself out to be the president of two purported law firms – based on Long Island – and was working in conjunction with the telemarketers. Officials said the homeowners were never provided with any type of legal assistance, despite many of them being told that they were “retaining” legal services.
Prosecutors said the men would also change the names of their companies in order to avoid complaints and attention. “I normally change names every 9 months to keep things cool and have all agencies off our backs,” Abghari allegedly said in an e-mail to employees, according to prosecutors. “Within the next month or so you’ll see a major slow down on complaints,” he said, noting the company was changing its name.