Targeted distressed homeowners
Martin Wayne Flanders, 51, formerly of Roseville, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Troy L. Nunley to six years and five months in prison for a scheme that targeted distressed homeowners, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
In February 2015, Flanders and his wife Ligia Sandoval Spafford (Sandoval), 48, of Roseville, pleaded guilty to mail fraud for their participation in the fraud scheme.
According to court documents, between 2008 and 2010, Flanders charged clients advance fees in exchange for a number of financial services, including loan modifications, mortgage loan audits, credit repair, debt relief, bankruptcy filings, and a program to sell homes to “investors” with a rent-to-own option. Flanders and Sandoval marketed these services to economically distressed homeowners with particular emphasis on those who were Spanish speakers. During a radio program aired twice weekly by a Bay Area Spanish-language Christian radio station, Radio Luz, Sandoval promoted the services she and Flanders offered. Flanders also advertised on a Spanish-language television station, Univision, and in Spanish-language magazines. About 98 percent of the defendants’ clients were of Hispanic descent, some of whom spoke little to no English. Sandoval speaks Spanish, Flanders does not.
Flanders and Sandoval made numerous false statements to investors as to the success of the programs being offered or refunds that would be available if the programs were not successful. “Ghost offers” – i.e., fictitious offers to purchase the victim’s property through short sale – and “skeleton bankruptcies” – i.e., sham bankruptcy petitions that were quickly dismissed by the bankruptcy court – were also used by Flanders or Sandoval to try to stall the foreclosure process. At least 25 to 30 individuals paid for services and did not receive them or did not receive refunds when the programs failed to deliver as promised. The total loss to the victims is at least $125,000. Some homeowners who were not able to obtain relief were foreclosed upon by their lenders.
“By targeting people in financial distress with limited English proficiency, Flanders sought to enrich himself on the backs of those who could least afford it,” said United States Attorney Wagner. “We are gratified by the sentence imposed by the Court, and we will continue to focus our efforts on the prosecution of such predatory fraud schemes.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd A. Pickles and Shelley Weger are prosecuting the case.
Flanders has been detained since his arrest in October 2012. Sandoval is currently out of custody. Sandoval is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Nunley on March 3, 2016. She faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.