In an early-morning raid at a Cello Drive home, FBI agents Wednesday arrested a Diamond Bar man in connection with a scheme that allegedly defrauded as many as 400 people who paid into a mortgage debt elimination scheme, officials said.
Jude Lopez was taken into custody without incident, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. Lopez is the father of Jennifer Dejongh, who abducted the grandchildren of Rep. Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga, in 2007 and fled to Mexico. She was arrested in 2011.
A woman, identified as Marcela Gonzalez, was also indicted by authorities in connection with the mortgage debt elimination scheme. She is suspected of six counts of mail fraud, Eimiller said. Reportedly, Gonzalez ran businesses in Montebello and South El Monte.
"Investigators believe approximately 400 clients were defrauded of approximately $5 million over approximately two years," Eimiller said. "(The) defendants allegedly pitched a `sovereign citizen' argument to homeowners, suggesting that the original liens were invalid."
If convicted, Lopez faces a prison sentence of 104 years and a fine of $4 million, Eimiller said. Gonzalez could be sent to prison for 180 years and liable for $6 million in fines.
Gonzalez and Lopez were due for their first appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon.
Court documents indicate the FBI, the Montebello Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department were involved in the investigation.
The U.S. Attorney's Office asked that Lopez be held as a flight risk, according to court documents.
Prosecutors allege that Lopez, working on behalf of a company identified as Crown Point, filed bankruptcy paperwork for Crown Point clients. The paperwork was intended to delay foreclosure proceedings, officials said.
"From at least on or about September 2010, through on or about May 2012, defendant Lopez - who was not a lawyer - prepared and filed, and caused to be prepared and filed, legal papers including ... bankruptcy petitions on behalf of clients in order to delay foreclosure and eviction actions."
The complaint alleges that in some cases Lopez filed paperwork without the client's knowledge. Some of the petitions contained forged signatures, according to court documents.
Lopez was in custody and not available for comment Wednesday.
Dejongh, 35, a former Diamond Bar resident, and her husband pleaded no contest to three counts of child custody deprivation, officials said. They were sentenced to five years of formal probation, 100 hours of community service and fines to be determined by the Los Angeles County Probation Department, court officials said.