California WatchGeorge Bolanos
The California Department of Real Estate has opened an investigation into George Bolanos, a Southern California man who advertises on Spanish-language radio and offers to save people from foreclosure with an upfront fee.
In a story for California Watch, I identified Bolanos as the man who appears to have scammed Lydia Prado, my parents' housecleaner. Bolanos had promised to help Lydia save her house, charged an illegal upfront fee, and wouldn't give his last name.
Anyone offering loan modification services needs to have a license from the Department of Real Estate. Bolanos doesn't.
“Based on the information that was in the article, we're investigating,” said department spokesperson Tom Pool.
The most the Department of Real Estate can do is issue a desist-and-refrain order against Bolanos, ordering him to stop his business. If he then continues, a government prosecutor could go after him for breaking the law. The attorney general's office wouldn't say whether it's investigating as well.
Prado has cleaned my parents’ Mission Viejo house every other week since I was about eight years old. She paid Bolanos $450 of the $1,500 fee he'd requested for his services.
It’s illegal to charge up-front fees for help with loan modifications. California outlawed such fees last year as part of a crackdown on the scams. Attorney General Jerry Brown has brought civil and criminal actions against 100 loan modification consultants, while federal agencies and officials in other states have acted against hundreds more.
As I looked into Lydia's case, I found out a lot of things about Bolanos. But I hadn't seen his face until now.
After my story on Bolanos ran last week, I heard from the family of a woman who had a child with Bolanos years ago. They passed me a photo to make sure it was the same Bolanos. Both Lydia and Glenda Herrera – another Southern California homeowner who says she was scammed as well – confirmed it.