NEW YORK (AP) — A man convicted of conspiring to defraud more than 30,000 Americans out of about $31 million was sentenced on Thursday to 16 years in prison by a judge who called his mortgage scheme "callous and heartless."
Dionysius Fiumano, of Irvine, California, also was ordered to pay $11.9 million in forfeiture and restitution by U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan, who presided over a spring trial.
The judge recalled that a Manhattan jury returned its verdict in less than an hour, demonstrating that "proof of guilt was overwhelming." He said Fiumano and others at a company that operated under multiple names carried out "a callous and heartless mortgage modification scheme" from November 2011 through May 2014, causing more than 60 homeowners to lose their homes.
Fiumano oversaw about 65 telemarketers and managers in his role as general manager of sales at the company, Vortex Financial Management Inc., which also was known as Professional Marketing Group and Professional Legal Network.
Prosecutors said the Irvine-based company persuaded homeowners in dire financial shape that it could modify the terms of their mortgages to make them more affordable. They said Fiumano and his staff fooled thousands of homeowners to pay thousands of dollars in up-front fees for little or no mortgage modification.
The government said Fiumano and his staff routinely lied to homeowners, saying the company would retain a law firm and negotiate aggressively on the homeowners' behalf with banks to lower the cost of their mortgages.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Imperatore told the judge that homeowners suffered psychological and financial harm that will last some of them the rest of their lives.
"These stories are sad in a way I really can't capture," Imperatore said, blaming Fiumano's crime on greed.
Before the sentence was announced, Fiumano told the judge he meant well when he joined the company because he had lost his own home after the 2008 financial collapse.
"I personally knew all too well the pain," he said.
Fiumano, who's 45 years old, said he felt "immeasurable grief and shame that I contributed to the hardship of these families."
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Fiumano and his co-conspirators claimed to be a lifeline when homeowners needed one most but instead they "preyed on and victimized the desperate homeowners, taking their money and doing nothing to actually help."
Four other people convicted in the scheme are awaiting sentencing.