For release on April 30, 2012   CONTACT :
Mike Fitzsimmons, Deputy District Attorney
Real Estate Fraud Unit
(408) 792-2801
  CHURCH BISHOP CONVICTED OF FORECLOSURE FRAUD A 56-year-old San Juan Bautista man recently pleaded guilty to felony foreclosure fraud charges that he bilked homeowners in San Jose and Milpitas out of more than $650,000 and fraudulently took the title to their homes. At the time of the scams, Wesley Fort was a bishop in the Newlife Family Worship Center Church of God in Christ International in Hollister.   Between 2005 and 2006, Fort, also a foreclosure consultant under California law, promised three families that he could save their homes. To do so, the bishop convinced the victims to transfer title to their homes to him to stop the foreclosure process. He promised that he would give back the properties to the victims when they were ready to resume ownership. Meanwhile, the victims were to make monthly payments to Fort. In one case, the payments to the clergyman were even more than the family’s mortgage payments. Instead of saving their homes and returning the title to the victims, Fort either stripped equity from the properties through cash out re-financings or sold the properties at a profit to himself. All three properties eventually lapsed into foreclosure again, with the families losing their homes. Under California law, it is a felony for foreclosure consultants to acquire any interest in a residence in foreclosure from a homeowner who has contracted with the consultant.   “Homeowners in foreclosure should never transfer title to their homes to foreclosure consultants offering to help,” said Deputy District Attorney Mike Fitzsimmons.  “Once you lose title, you lose control, and that’s not a good place to be when your home is on the line.”   Sentencing for Fort is scheduled for November 16, 2012 in Santa Clara County Superior Court, Department 39. He will receive of sentence of no more than two years and eight months in jail, subject to the amount of restitution paid by sentencing, followed by a three year period of mandatory supervision.  

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