A former lawyer in Long Beach has been sentenced to 41 months in prison for his roles in a mortgage modification scheme which posed as a successful law firm.
Ronald Rodis, 52, lent his name and voice to advertisements touting the services of the Rodis Law Group, which offered loan modification services for a flat fee in the wake of the mortgage crisis. Federal prosecutors charged him and two other men—Bryan D’Antonio and Charles Wayne Farris—of conspiring to defraud struggling homeowners by misrepresenting Rodis Law Group’s ability to negotiate the terms of home loans. Rodis pleaded guilty in June 2016 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
As part of his plea, Rodis admitted that between October 2008 and June 2009, he participated in a scheme to convince homeowners to pay between $3,500 and $5,500 for the firm’s services. In radio advertisements he recorded, Rodis claimed the firm had “a team of experienced attorneys” who were “highly skilled in negotiating lower interest rates and even lowering your principal balance.” Prosecutors, however, maintain that the firm was a boiler-room telemarketing operation, Rodis was the firm’s only attorney, and it rarely achieved the lofty results promised. According to California State Bar records, Rodis voluntarily surrendered his law license in 2009.
At sentencing, Rodis claimed he had worked to provide services to the firm’s clients and he was unaware that D’Antonio, the ringleader of the scheme, was a convicted felon barred from participating in any telemarketing business. Prosecutors had asked for a 46-month sentence, five months longer than the prison term handed down by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter in Santa Ana on Tuesday. Rodis’ lawyers, Joel Levine and Paul Meyer of Costa Mesa, didn’t respond to email messages Wednesday.
Also on Tuesday, Rodis’ co-defendant Farris was sentenced to 47 months in prison and ordered to pay $3,826,947.95 in restitution. D’Antonio was previously sentenced to 97 months in prison, a year in a halfway house, and ordered to pay $3,826,977.95 in restitution.
In a press release, Sandra Brown, acting U.S. attorney of the Central District of California, said the defendants “used their legal knowledge and expertise to coerce and victimize vulnerable homeowners.”
“Rather than help these individuals as promised, their fraudulent scheme cost the victims millions of dollars,” she said.
The case was prosecuted by John Burke, a trial attorney with the DOJ Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph T. McNally.
Ross Todd is bureau chief of The Recorder in San Francisco. He writes about litigation in the Bay Area and around California. Contact Ross at email@example.com. On Twitter: @Ross_Todd.