Sheriff’s deputies arrest Lake Elsinore man in connection with home loan scam

Lake Elsinore man accused of perpetrating a home loan modification scam targeting distressed property owners in California and Hawaii was being held today in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Duy Khac Nguyen, 34, was arrested on Thursday following a years-long investigation conducted by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Honolulu police, the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Secret Service.

Nguyen is charged with 15 counts of grand theft and one misdemeanor count of petty theft. He’s being held at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta.

According to sheriff’s investigators, Nguyen in 2010 and 2011 operated a business called First Universal Solutions, which purported to provide assistance to homeowners upside-down on their mortgages, seeking to avoid foreclosure by refinancing or taking advantage of the federal Home Affordability Mortgage Program.

The defendant and another man, identified as Patt Wattanachinda, allegedly telephoned up to 20 people, most of them in Hawaii but at least one in Northern California, offering to help the victims obtain home loan modifications.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit filed by sheriff’s Investigator Rich Holder, the alleged scam artists convinced the property owners to write them checks in varying amounts — as high as $4,800 — to arrange for government assistance. But none was ever forthcoming; Nguyen and Wattanachinda allegedly pocketed the funds, according to Holder.

The total estimated loss to the victims was $61,000, according to the investigator.

Sheriff’s personnel, Honolulu police and federal agents initiated an investigation that took nearly three years, culminating in charges being filed against the two defendants last month.

Wattanachinda’s whereabouts were not immediately known.

Nguyen is tentatively slated to be arraigned Monday at the Southwest Justice Center.

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