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Quality of Life

121 Foreclosure Fraud Victims Get $800K In Restitution

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The San Diego County District Attorney's Office obtained more than $800,000 in restitution on behalf of 121 victims of foreclosure fraud stemming from a case of 10 defendants prosecuted in 2009, it was announced Tuesday.

The case ended with the ringleader of the scam, William Hutchings, being convicted of 160 felony counts. The other nine defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft-related charges.

"The victims in this case not only lost their homes, they also lost thousands of dollars," said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. "Our Economic Crimes Division has done a great job delivering the justice of a conviction, as well as working toward making the victims whole by getting their money back."

The defendants acquired grant deeds to residences in foreclosure based on false or misleading statements that their "federal land grant program" would prevent homeowners from losing possession and title of their homes through foreclosure.

At the time of their arrests in 2008, the defendants had obtained more than 400 grant deeds from victims in San Diego County and more than 500 from victims in the Southern California region.

Victims were promised that having a recorded land grant or land patent gave them a title that was superior to any claim their lender may assert against it. The defendants further promised that even if homeowners were evicted as a result of a foreclosure, they would be able to retain legal possession of the property and could somehow retake possession after the statute of limitations expired.

One approach used by the foreclosure scammers was to require a one-time $10,000 payment to participate in the so-called "land grant" program, according to authorities.