South Florida man used “spoofing” to con homeowners

Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post

By Kimberly Miller

Published December 30, 2014


A South Florida man used “spoofing” and pretended to be a federal official to convince homeowners nationwide to send him their mortgage payments instead of their lenders, federal prosecutors say.

Jonathan L. Herbert, of Lighthouse Point, pleaded guilty last week to one count of wire fraud in the scam, which has been going on since at least February 2011.

According to court records, Herbert would call homeowners pretending to be a government official with news that they were eligible for a loan modification and mortgage assistance. To prove his veracity, Herbert said the homeowner would get a call from his or her lender substantiating the legitimacy of the modification and that they would know it was their lender from their caller ID.

Homeowners would see their lender’s number, but prosecutors said Herbert used a technology known as “spoofing” that allows a caller to change the number that appears on the call recipient’s caller ID.

“During the second phone calls, the phony lender representative falsely told the victim that defendant’s program was legitimate and that his or her mortgage payments would be reduced,” court records say. “The phony lender representative also told the victim to ignore any further communications from the lender, such as warnings about delinquency or foreclosure.”

Homeowners were told to send their mortgage payments to addresses in Washington, D.C., which turned out to be UPS stores that had the mail forwarded to Herbert in Florida.

Prosecutors said Herbert pocketed about $750,000 in the scheme. He is scheduled for sentencing March 27 and faces up to 30 years in prison. The case is being tried by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

“The criminal conduct involved in this case is truly despicable,” said United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois Stephen Wigginton. “Herbert preyed upon people who were already vulnerable due to financial hardship. By pretending that he was acting on behalf of the government and calling to help them, he stole their money and made their situations worse.”