SACRAMENTO, CA - An alleged mortgage scam has left dozens of Northern California homeowners wondering if they even own their own homes.
A federal seach warrant for the home of Arlina Alexander-Zaplutus of Elk Grove alleges she was involved in a "foreclosure rescue scheme" - where unscrupulous people promise homeowners they can stop the foreclosure process.
The FBI agent investigating the scheme said in the documents that it is done by filing for bankruptcy over and over, using incomplete filings that keep restarting the process.
When a friend told Javier Jiminez there was a lady who could keep him from losing his house of 20 years, he decided to give it a try.
"My dad lost his job. We had no money, the next thing you know, all we know is she's gonna take care of the house for us," said Javier's son Jose Jiminez.
Jiminez said Alexander-Zaplutus told his father she would help him stay in his home.
"Yes, she was actually gonna reduce payments and everything like that. She was gonna take care of everything that was going on with the house," the younger Jiminez said she told his father.
In return, Jiminez paid her $500.00 dollars a month and $1500.00 every six months, in addition to $274.00 filing fees the search warrant alleges Alexander-Zaplutus generally did not pay.
"He said that she was saying everything would be ok because she works for the government," Jiminez said.
Information in the search warrant confirms that Alexander-Zaplutus took payments from her mostly Hispanic clients. In return, she continued to file bankruptcy papers, sometimes under other's names, to allow her to keep filing.
Jiminez finally decided to hire a real estate agent to try to do a short-sale of his home - and that's when the realtor gave him some bad news.
"She ended up putting in a bunch of different owners into the house itself," the younger Jiminez said, apparently indicating Alexander-Zaplutus tried to show the home had changed hands to allow her to further delay foreclosure proceedings.
Through his son, the elder Jiminez said he'd wondered how the process worked, but accepted it as a way to stay in his home.
"It was suspicious, but because we were still here, we were like, ok, we're being helped. And it was worth it, I guess," said Jose Jiminez.
The search warrant shows the FBI was looking for documents, computers and hard drives.
No one answered the door at Alexander-Zapulutus' comfortable home in Elk Grove.
No one at the U.S. Attorney's office in Sacramento answered phone calls. A recording said no one was available because of the government shutdown.