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Accused Loan Scammers Appear in Court

SAN DIEGO (CN) - A lawyer and a telemarketing salesman were arraigned on charges that they defrauded thousands of homeowners in an $11 million "loan modification" scheme.

The pair are just two of many alleged co-conspirators indicted for the 1st American Law Center telemarketing scheme, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors said clients paid thousands of dollars to have their residential mortgage loans modified after hearing about the firm's purported success and legal resources.

Chandler, who owns the Oceanside-based law firm, had telemarketers use "high-pressure sales tactics and outright lies to prey on homeowners located across the country who were struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments and were at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

"Among other alleged lies, the conspirators falsely promised to have a team of attorneys pre-screen client applications - claiming that these attorneys only approved 30% of those seeking to use 1ALC's services - and boasted of having a 98% success rate in obtaining loan modifications.

Telemarketers working for 1st American Law Center would say anything to close the deal, according to the indictment, which describes ruses such as an employee pretended to have helped "thousands" of happy homeowners save their homes.

They also lied that the firm had been in business for 20 years and that there was a money-back guarantee, prosecutors say.

Chandler, 47, allegedly solicited clients online and by appearing in television commercials. Chandler appeared in court along with telemarketing salesman Shelveen Singh, 25, of Corona. They were charged with another telemarketer, Anthony Calandriello, and call center manager Michael Eccles, with conspiring to commit the mail fraud and wire fraud. Chandler also faces money-laundering charges.

Calandriello, 29 whom authorities apprehended in New York where he lives, will appear in San Diego on Oct. 17, 2012, at 10:30 a.m. Eccles, 32, of Vista, is in custody in San Diego, pending release on bond.

Chandler and Singh will make their next court appearance on Nov. 13, 2012, at 2:00 p.m.

Nine others affiliated with 1st American Law Center have already pleaded guilty for their roles in the criminal enterprise and the subsequent cover-up.

On Dec. 16, 2011, the firm's marketing director, Gary Bobel, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax charges. Telemarketers Scott Thomas Spencer, Mark Andrew Spencer and Travis Iverson also pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. They face sentencing on Dec. 3, 2012.

Another of Chandler's telemarketers, Jonathon Hearn, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges on Aug. 21, 2012. He faces sentencing on Dec. 3, 2012. Telemarketer Roger Jones pleaded guilty to conspiracy on Dec. 23, 2010, and was sentenced in March 2011 to serve 21 months.

The firm's IT director, Steven Gerstzyn, pleaded guilty on Feb. 9, 2012, to making a false statement to federal agents. Gerstzyn faces sentencing on Oct. 15, 2012. Two other of Chandler's employees, Sarah Grimm and Amy Hintz, were each fined $1,000 after pleading guilty on June 28, 2012, to theft of government property.

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