The manager of an Everett, Washington, call center pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to a conspiracy to defraud approximately 1,000 distressed homeowners facing foreclosure, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran.  EDWIN JOSUE HERRERA ROSALES aka “Josh Herrera,” 34 , pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with his operation of call centers that operated under the names “Sound Solutions Group,” “Community Assistance Center,” and California-based “Sienna Support Network.”

HERRERA ROSALES and his co-conspirators sent solicitation mailers to distressed homeowners nationwide.  The mailers promised that HERRERA ROSALES’ organization could reduce homeowners’ mortgage debts and lower their monthly payments.  When homeowners called the call center, operators put the callers through a phony “underwriting” process and then told the callers that the company’s legal and underwriting staff had determined it could negotiate a favorable mortgage modification in exchange for an upfront fee of $3,000.  In fact, the call center had no legal or underwriting staff, and many of the homeowners did not receive the promised modifications.

HERRERA ROSALES is scheduled for sentencing by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on May 4, 2021.

According to records filed in the case, HERRERA ROSALES conspired with others based in Southern California to operate the scheme.  Each week the operation sent approximately 4,000 mailers to distressed homeowners across the country.  The mailers stated that that the homeowner had been “pre-approved” for a new government program, under which HERRERA ROSALES’s organization could negotiate a mortgage modification.  For example, one mailer said that HERRERA ROSALES’s organization could reduce a borrower’s loan balance by over $140,000 and could reduce the interest rate to 2%.  The mailers urged the homeowners to call the Everett call center for assistance.

HERRERA ROSALES oversaw a staff of call center operators.  When homeowners contacted the call center, HERRERA ROSALES directed the operators to follow a script designed to make it appear as if each caller’s mortgage was being reviewed by the company’s “underwriting” and “legal department” to make sure the homeowner qualified for the supposed federal program.  In fact, the call center had no legal staff or underwriting department.  Instead, operators were instructed simply to put each caller on hold for a pre-determined amount of time, to make it appear a review was underway.  The operator then would return to the line and tell each victim that he or she was one of the “very select few” who qualified for the program—but only if the homeowner paid the call center a $3,000 fee.  If the homeowner balked at the fee, the call center staff had another script with certain “hot button” statements to persuade them to sign the documents.  It is impermissible under federal regulations to charge upfront fees for mortgage modification services.

Once the contracts were signed, the call center submitted the homeowner’s paperwork to a California-based loan processing group, which made some minimal efforts to restructure the debt.  While a limited number of customers obtained a lower monthly payment, the vast majority had no change or, in some cases, a higher monthly payment.  The call center used a phony address, and operators used aliases to disguise their identities.

Between March 2016 and May 2018, about 1,000 customers paid over $2.5 million to the various entities operated by HERRERA ROSALES.  After HERRERA ROSALES paid the expenses of the call centers and paid a share to his co-conspirators, he kept approximately $360,000.

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud is punishable by up to five years in prison.

The case is being investigated by the FBI.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Seth Wilkinson.