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9 Southern California men charged with operating foreclosure-relief scam

The state attorney general's office says the Canoga Park company allegedly stole at least $2.3 million from about 1,500 homeowners.

May 21, 2010|By Nathan Olivarez-Giles, Los Angeles Times

Nine Southern California men have been charged with operating a foreclosure-relief scam that allegedly stole at least $2.3 million from about 1,500 homeowners across the U.S., the state attorney general's office announced Thursday.

The alleged scheme, which operated out of a Canoga Park office decorated like a casino, charged homeowners $1,000 to $5,000, but loan modifications were almost never completed, court documents said.

"This company was just a boiler room, long on promises and upfront fees but short on foreclosure relief," Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown said.

Telemarketers for the company, which operated under the names Mason Capital Group and Gretchen Fox and Associates, claimed a 90% success rate in reducing interest rates, monthly payments and principal balances on mortgages, court documents said.

Pictures of the office released by the authorities showed poker and blackjack tables used as desks, slot machines along the walls and a roulette wheel near a doorway.

"Telemarketers earned a spin for cash bonuses on a roulette wheel based on their sales volume," said an arrest warrant for the nine men charged with a total of 97 criminal counts.

Four of the nine men were in custody Thursday, the attorney general's office said. Two of them, Gary Arnold Eisenberg, 71, and Ira Itskowitz, 58, had each previously spent more than five years in federal prison on fraud convictions. The others were Gregg Scott Quinn, 37, and Juan Pierre Washington, 40.

Calls to attorneys representing the men were not returned Thursday.

The four principal owners of the business — Niv Iskin, 30, of Reseda; Reviv Karpman, 38, of Tarzana; Tomer Kogman, 29, of Reseda; and Avraham Yechizkia, 34, of Encino — and sales manager Barel Iskin, 23, of Woodland Hills were still at large, the statement said.

The complaint filed by the attorney general said the scam took place between January 2008 and June 2009, with the four owners spending hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen from homeowners on private school tuition, travel, entertainment, shopping and other personal expenses.

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