HARRISBURG – December 19, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — Attorney General Linda Kelly today announced that a consumer protection lawsuit filed against several employees linked to OPFM ? a defunct financial services company operating in Reading and Lancaster counties involved in a wide-reaching Central Pennsylvania mortgage fraud case ? has resulted in judgments totaling more than $28 million in restitution for the benefit of hundreds of consumers victimized by this Ponzi scheme.
Kelly said that Senior Judge Albert A. Stallone, who presided over a lengthy non-jury trial in Berks County, found that several mortgage consultants and other employees of OPFM acted ?in concert? with company President Wesley Alvin Snyder in the marketing and sale of ?wrap mortgages? and ?loan participation agreements,? which were promoted as mechanisms for consumers to reduce their interest rates and pay-off their mortgages more quickly.
Snyder is currently serving a prison sentence after pleading guilty to one count of mail fraud. The court found that Snyder engaged in deceptive conduct, in violation of Pennsylvania?s Consumer Protection Law, and entered judgment against Wesley Snyder and his wife Sydney Snyder, jointly, in the amount of $28,675,731 in restitution for the victims.
Additionally, the court found that five mortgage consultants for OPFM, along with the company?s bookkeeper and office manager shared responsibility for the consumer losses and also entered judgments against those individuals for restitution.
A judgment was entered against Cheryl Ann Bennetch, of Denver, Lancaster County, who served as bookkeeper and office manager, in the amount of $241,163. This amount represents her total compensation between January 2003 and September 2007, when OPFM filed for bankruptcy.
Additionally, Bennetch was enjoined from engaging in any business involving the accounting of money or real estate transactions in Pennsylvania through August 29, 2013.
Kelly said the court also found that five mortgage consultants failed to properly inform consumers of the possible risks in this scheme.
As summarized by Judge Stallone in his court order: ?There should have been warnings given to consumers of the risks being taken? somebody needed to pay attention to these risks and nobody? including the Mortgage Consultants? did so until the eve of bankruptcy.?
Judge Stallone apportioned to the Mortgage Consultants 5% of the losses sustained by consumers as a result of the marketing and sale of wrap mortgages by the Mortgage Consultants, totaling more than $1.2 million, with the following judgments entered for restitution against each Mortgage Consultant:
Jacquelyn Hepford-Rennie, of Lansdale, Montgomery County, in the amount of $455,762.
Kenneth Roger Bennetch, of Denver, Lancaster County, in the amount of $257,628.
Julie Ann Musser, of Sinking Springs, Berks County, in the amount of $214,566.
Susan Louise Hunt, of Reading, in the amount of $195,331.
Amy Lou Styer, of Birdsboro, Berks County, in the amount of $127,697.
The Court also enjoined the five mortgage consultants from receiving monies and/or payments for services, as an employee or otherwise, pertaining to the provision of mortgage financing and/or investment products, and from entering into oral and/or written contracts or agreements, as an employee or otherwise, to provide mortgage financing and/or investment products, through August 29, 2013.
Kelly said the lawsuit was originally filed in May 2008, in Berks County Court of Common Pleas.
The trial was handled by Senior Deputy Attorney General Thomas Blessington of the Attorney General?s Bureau of Consumer Protection and Senior Deputy Attorney General William Slotter.