More homeowners claim mortgage rescue fraud

May 16, 2011 7:19:14 PM PDT
A Las Vegas man is scheduled to be arraigned this week on 29 counts of mortgage fraud. He has been indicted in Alameda County on charges of cheating distressed homeowners out of thousands of dollars. It's a story 7 On Your Side broke earlier this year, and now our investigation shows evidence the program extends far beyond the East Bay.

Willy Ruiz has been in his San Francisco home for 20 years.

"I think he lied to me because he promised one thing and then after six months, I never hear from them again," said Willy.

And this Los Angeles man, who asked not to be identified, so we will refer to him as "Mike," has been in his home for 15 years. "You know what, I got conned because I was willing to believe something that was unbelievable."

Both paid $1,500 to $2,000 after signing up for what they hoped would be a mortgage rescue program. Willy's home was in foreclosure when he signed a contract with Alan David Tikal, the owner of a mortgage reduction company. In that contract, Tikal agrees to "reduce the specific debts by 75 percent."

"...promised me to buy the house from me, but it still will be in my name," said Willy.

Mike was skeptical of the program because his home had already been foreclosed, but he says he was told it could still be saved.

"At the end when I finally said, 'OK, let's go, let's do this,' it's because I had run out of options," said Mike. "I didn't have anything else to try, so why not."

A document recorded in Los Angeles County by Tikal's Company, KATN Trust, claims Mike's loan had been paid in full. However, the lender refused to recognize the document and has not reversed the foreclosure.

Tikal was extradited from Las Vegas where he was arrested and made his first court appearance in Alameda County late last month. He is charged with conspiring to commit real estate fraud, mortgage security fraud and filing false documents.

Prosecutors say Tikal's mortgage rescue program promised to pay off a homeowner's mortgage and refinance at a 75 percent savings. Both Mike and Willy claim the rescue program never paid off their mortgage as promised. Willy's foreclosure date was only pushed back to June after 7 On Your Side called his lender, Chase Bank. Mike says he'll file for bankruptcy and sue to stop his eviction. He first became concerned when Tikal's agent gave him a warning.

"My agent came to me and said something's wrong here," said Mike. "This is not working out. People are losing their homes."

His agent, who we are calling "John," asked not to be identified. John told 7 On Your Side he truly believed Tikal's program would work.

"We started helping family, friends, and everybody that we knew that they were in trouble, and basically there's a lot of people in trouble," said John. "So we didn't have any problems with that."

He said Tikal recruited hundreds of agents across the country

"This thing took off like wildfire," said John. "People they sold you on an opportunity to help other people."

He says clients were recruited from not only California, but from Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, Georgia, Florida and Illinois.

"That was a good 80 percent of my savings at the time," said Greg Friedman of Chicago, referring to the $2,000 he gave Tikal to try to save his home. Ten months later, he's given up all hope of keeping his home of six years.

"I finally figured out it was a scam," he said. "You know, it was a last ditch hope. I had a lot of hope in the system even though it was wrong."

Tikal's attorney declined an on-camera interview, but said it's likely his client will enter a not guilty plea. He cautioned Tikal has not been charged in the case outside Alameda County, and has no knowledge of any other allegations.

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