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updated: 12/17/2013 1:09 PM

Three charged in suburban mortgage fraud scheme

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Three far West suburban residents are facing federal fraud charges stemming from a mortgage "rescue" scheme, according to prosecutors.

Carlos Rayas, 39, of Aurora, as well as Melvin T. Bell, 37, and Monica Hernandez, 43, both of Oswego, were indicted recently for operating an unlicensed mortgage company that prosecutors claim "swindled" $220,000 from at least 54 homeowners.

Prosecutors said the trio illegally operated Washington National Trust as a business providing financial assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure. They claimed the program was operated by "wealthy Native Americans and was exempt from state and federal laws," according to court papers.

The trio told homeowners they could lower homeowners' existing mortgage payments and defeat foreclosure. The homeowners paid fees from $5,000 to $10,000, and in exchange signed over deeds to their homes to Washington National Trust, prosecutors said. The trio promised to pay off the existing mortgages and the homeowners would then pay lower mortgage payments to the "mortgage rescue company."

If convicted, each of the defendants faces up to 20 years in prison.

Rayas pleaded not guilty in court today. He was released on his own recognizance. His next court date is scheduled for Jan. 10. Arrest warrants were issued for the other two, prosecutors said.

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