MADISON -- A New Richmond man has been charged in connection with allegedly taking mortgage payments from homeowners facing foreclosure but keeping the money without forwarding it to their lenders, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Aston Wood, 55, who operated ASC Financial LLC, was indicted Thursday in federal court with wire fraud, mail fraud, bankruptcy fraud and criminal contempt of court. The indictment alleged that between September 2015 and July 2019:
Wood told homeowners in foreclosure that he could help them stay in their homes by getting their mortgage refinanced or modified. He told them to make monthly mortgage payments toward their new loan to him, but Wood did not pay their mortgage holders.
Wood selected the amount of payment his clients would pay him which he deposited in his bank accounts and spent the funds on his personal expenses.
Wood also allegedly offered to help some customers buy back their foreclosed homes. He continued to solicit and receive funds from customers or their families by telling them he would the funds to repurchase their properties. The indictment also alleged that Wood told some customers to file bankruptcy to delay foreclosure proceedings. That allowed Wood to continue collecting monthly mortgage payments from customers, court documents said.
The criminal contempt count alleges that Wood violated an injunction issued by a bankruptcy judge on Oct. 24, 2017, preventing him from soliciting customers and performing mortgage foreclosure and debt relief. The Oct. 24, 2017 bankruptcy court order also fined Wood $66,000 for preparing bankruptcy petitions in violation of the Bankruptcy Code. Wood was not a licensed attorney, and made fraudulent and deceptive statements to clients, which violated the Bankruptcy Code.
Some of the indictment is mirrored in a complaint filed against him in bankruptcy court by the Office of the U.S. Trustee. The complaint alleged that seven clients paid Wood to assist them with bankruptcy filings who also were in property foreclosure.
One client said he paid Wood $700 believing Wood would persuade the mortgage lender to reinstate the loan. The client didn’t appear at a creditor meeting and the lender filed a motion to lift the stay of bankruptcy. Wood is accused of falsely telling clients that they were not required to appear at creditor meetings, which is considered fraudulent or deceptive conduct in bankruptcy regulations.
Wire fraud and mail each have a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, five years for bankruptcy fraud.
No court dates or detention proceedings have been set in the case. The amount of loss to Wood’s clients was not available Friday from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, according to a spokesperson.