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4 Mortgage Scammers Plead Guilty

SAN DIEGO (CN) - Four men pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion in a loan-modification scam involving an Oceanside company called 1st American Law Center.

Gary Bobel, Scott Thomas Spencer aka Thomas Cole, Mark Andrew Spencer aka Mark Andrews, and Travis Iverson all pleaded guilty to the federal charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

A fifth defendant, Roger Jones, pleaded guilty to conspiracy a year ago and was sentenced in March to 21 months in prison.

Bobel set up the loan modification business in North San Diego County in 2008 and hired the Spencers, Jones and "dozens of others" as telemarketers, prosecutors said. Defendant Iverson ran a separate call center for Bobel in Riverside County, which is just north of San Diego County.

"The defendants used high-pressure sales tactics and outright lies to induce their customers to purchase loan modification services - for payments from $1,995 to $4,495 - such as falsely claiming to have a team of attorneys who pre-screened clients and having a 98 percent success rate in obtaining loan modifications," according to prosecutors' statement.

Bobel admitted that he failed to report $489,308 in taxable income that he got from the scam, in which his "telemarketers were encouraged to say virtually anything it took to close the deal," including "that their grandmothers got a loan modification through the company," according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Prosecutors say the crew pried more than $11 million "from more than 4,000 desperate homeowners across the country," from 2008 through 2010.

The guilty pleas are subject to acceptance by a federal judge, who has set a sentencing hearing for March 9, 2010.

Bobel, 59, lives in Carlsbad; Scott Spencer, 35, in Del Mar; Mark Spencer, 32, in Del Mar; and Iverson, 35, in Riverside.

The conspiracy and tax evasion charges are each punishable by 5 years in prison and $250,000 fines or, for conspiracy, twice the gross gain from the offense.

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