MADISON, Wis. – A New Richmond man accused of scamming up to 50 people in excess of $450,000, was found guilty Monday in federal court of mail fraud and bankruptcy fraud.
Aston S. Wood, 57, engaged in a mortgage rescue scheme between January 2014 and July 2019 in which he solicited homeowners in foreclosure. He told them that he would get their mortgages refinanced or reinstated and they could keep their homes, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Duchemin.
Wood, who operated ASC Financial LLC and Maywood Capital LLC, had his customers make their monthly mortgage payments directly to him but instead of forwarding the money to the lenders, Wood spent it on personal needs and travel, Duchemin said.
Wood also told customers that he would be paid by the finance companies or a government program only if he got their mortgages refinanced.
When his customers begin to lose their homes, Wood told many to file bankruptcy to halt further proceedings and not respond to any requests from the bankruptcy court. The delay only allowed Wood to postpone detection and continue to receive their monthly mortgage payments.
The son of one of Wood’s customers asked how he could help his father keep this house. Wood allegedly told him that he would get a loan in the son’s name so his father could retain the home if the son would send Wood two blank checks totaling $2,000, said Duchemin. When the son sought to get his money back, Wood falsely told him that he had instead obtained an offer on his father’s house but the deal fell through and the son’s money wasn’t returned.
Wood subsequently filed bankruptcy, and after an investigation, a bankruptcy court trustee filed a complaint against Wood alleging that he took clients’ money without performing the services he promised to extract their properties from foreclosure.
The complaint formed by the basis of the federal prosecution against Wood and resulted in his being indicted in September on six counts of wire fraud and single counts of mail and bankruptcy fraud and criminal contempt.
In exchange for his guilty pleas to mail and bankruptcy fraud Monday, the government agreed to dismiss the wire fraud and criminal contempt charges at sentencing.
While on pretrial release, Wood contacted a client which violated conditions of his release and resulted in his being detained since Dec. 16.
In court on Monday, Duchemin said the communications with the son of a client constituted mail fraud and Wood committed bankruptcy fraud by advising individuals to file bankruptcy to delay investigations into his conduct.
Wood told District Judge James Peterson that he kept money from clients instead of acting on his promises to help them, and encouraged clients to file bankruptcy.
At his March 17 sentencing, Wood faces maximum combined statutory penalties of 25 years in prison, $500,000 in fines and restitution to be agreed upon between the government and Wood or, absent an agreement, set by Peterson.
Peterson will consult advisory sentencing guidelines that typically have far less severe penalties but will consider relevant conduct including a $66,000 fine issued by a bankruptcy court for preparing fraudulent bankruptcy petitions and making deceptive statements to clients.