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Federal grand jury indicts Elk Grove woman on 18 counts related to bankruptcy scheme

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Federal authorities are looking for a former Elk Grove resident who was indicted by a federal grand jury Friday on 18 counts related to 500 fraudulent bankruptcy petitions, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Arlina Alexander-Zaplutus, 50, is charged with making false statements and filing false documents in multiple bankruptcy cases, according to a news release from the office of McGregor W. Scott, the U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District U.S. Circuit Court.

The indictment also alleges that Alexander-Zaplutus filed bankruptcy petitions with the intent to obstruct the investigation and proper administration of bankruptcy cases, the release said.

According to court documents, Alexander-Zaplutus allegedly filed and caused the filing of multiple bankruptcy petitions in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California that contained false information, according to the release. The false information included purported debtors’ names, addresses and Social Security numbers, the DOJ said.

Alexander-Zaplutus’ whereabouts are unknown at this time.

The original complaint in the case, which was filed on April 14, 2014, by FBI Special Agent Richard J. Snodgrass, said Alexander-Zaplutus looked to be involved in operating an illegal foreclosure rescue scheme that involved filings on 33 separate residences between June 2007 and August 2013.

Each homeowner he spoke to, Snodgrass said in the complaint, told him they had sought and received help from Alexander-Zaplutus with their home loans, with many reporting they made multiple payments to her.

"Alexander-Zaplutus represented to various homeowners that, in return for payment, she could forestall, if not prevent, foreclosure of their homes," Snodgrass said in the complaint.

The false filings were allegedly made to invoke the stay provisions of federal bankruptcy law, which halted creditors' collection and foreclosure actions against Alexander-Zaplutus' and several of her clients' residential properties, according to the DOJ.

Snodgrass said that he learned during his investigations from a trial attorney, who works in the Office of the United States Trustee, that filing a bankruptcy petition will trigger notices to be sent to a debtor's creditors, including mortgage lenders. The mortgage lenders will then put a halt to any foreclosures proceedings, with multiple filings one right after the other having the potential to prolong the process even longer.

But after three filings, Snodgrass said he was told that the next petition must be filed using a different debtor's name.

One resident told Snodgrass that, after attempting to sell his home, the real estate agent informed him their were too many names on the title and that Alexander-Zaplutus had told the homeowner that the names were added to the title to enable him to stay in his home longer.

More than 80 percent of the Social Security numbers used in the 500 petitions filed either did not correspond to the debtor or were not related to any record that could be found, Snodgrass said.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Philip A. Ferrari and Matthew C. Thuesen are prosecuting this case. If convicted, Alexander-Zaplutus could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each false statement count, along with up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine for each count of falsifying documents in bankruptcy.

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