By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
"There's nothing you can't learn from this man about work and about life," Baghram told the Outlook. "It's an honor working for him."
The contractor won a judgment, but has been unable to collect.
The market caught up with Weston and Parmelee in 2008, when they started defaulting on their loans. They fell behind by $26,000 on a $1.2 million loan against their primary residence on La Porte Drive. They failed to pay wages to a gardener and a cleaning lady. In July, they got a notice that one of their rental properties would be sold at auction.
They also fell behind on a $500,000 loan on the liquor store. They got a loan modification, made three more payments and then defaulted again. In October, Parmelee again declared bankruptcy, but the filing was thrown out of court. In seven years, her assets had grown from $1.1 million to $7 million. But she owed $9 million, and she was falling further behind at the rate of $8,000 a month.
Without a rising housing market, the couple had nowhere to turn for cash.
"The banks turned around and said, 'Hey, we can't give out any money,'" Weston said, in an interview with the Weekly from Los Angeles County jail. "Did it hurt us? Yes, it did."
In a lawsuit, a lender accused them of forging a bankruptcy document in the name of one of their corporations, in an effort to stall the foreclosure of Lee Ann's Place. The store was ultimately foreclosed, and will reopen soon as Remedy Liquor.
In desperation, Parmelee turned to Garcia and Dean.
The two men had continued to refinance mortgages until the bubble burst in 2007. Then, they reinvented themselves as loan-modification consultants, offering to fix the same kinds of loans they had helped to sell at Ameriquest, for a fee.
One of their clients was Aurora Buchanan, a cosmetic surgeon's "aesthetic consultant," who had bought five spec homes and now feared she would go into default.
She says she got a phone solicitation from Garcia, who offered to refinance her loans. Garcia said he knew a manager at Bank of America, Dean, who could do a loan modification in 24 hours. She agreed, ultimately paying $13,000 for modifications on several properties.
Parker and Gonzales ran Abaka Republic Marketing out of a shabby bungalow in Glendale.
They had many clients, mostly Filipinos, who were desperate for loan modifications. Soon, the two were working with Garcia and Dean on the alleged loan-modification scam.
Another client, Sonia Hernandez, said she received a modification agreement from Garcia. But when she called Bank of America, the bank had no record of it. The agreement, for which she had paid $3,500, was fake.
Garcia testified at a preliminary hearing in February that he believed Dean had friends inside the bank who could expedite the modification process. Whereas many clients were waiting for 90 days or more just to hear back from their lender, Garcia testified that Dean could deliver modifications within three to five days.
Garcia said he thought that $2,000 of each transaction went to Dean's friends inside the bank. The remainder, he said, was split between himself, Dean, Parker and Gonzales.
(In a statement to the Weekly, Bank of America said it could not comment on the case, but warned customers not to pay up-front fees for loan modifications.)
Attorneys who represent the defendants in the torture case have tracked down more than 30 clients who say they paid Garcia and Dean for loan modifications. According to the attorneys, not one received a modification.
The lawyers allege that Garcia and Dean kept the money for themselves. The night of the beating, Garcia bragged to a female police officer that he made $60,000 a month. He denied that figure in court.
According to Weston, Parmelee alone paid $22,000 for loan modifications. From jail, he blames all of his financial troubles on Garcia.
"I lost $10 million in real estate because of Luis Garcia," Weston says. "Con artists can pretty much have their way today."
Late last September, Garcia returned from a trip to Hawaii with his girlfriend to discover that Parker and Gonzales had cut him out of their business. Instead of referring clients to Garcia, they were going directly to Dean.
Angered at being squeezed out, Garcia threatened to call the bank. "I knew Bank of America didn't know," he testified.
On October 20, Garcia went to the Abaka Republic Marketing bungalow at 3 p.m. He wanted to clear the air. He had dangled the offer of a $30,000 loan from his mother's retirement account as leverage to get back in business.
What happened when Garcia arrived at the bungalow is culled from allegations in preliminary-hearing testimony, search-warrant affidavits and a civil complaint.
When Garcia walked through the front door, he says he saw Dean tied up on the floor, wearing just his boxers.
Before he could figure out what was going on, Weston grabbed him and said, "Do you know that I lost my house! You motherfucker!"
With that, Weston allegedly hit Garcia on the forehead with the butt of a 9mm pistol. He passed out.
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