California's burgeoning foreclosure crisis turned violent after angry homeowners allegedly attacked and tortured two loan agents who they believed had reneged on a promise to help save their home, authorities said.
A California couple and three accomplices were charged in the case. They are accused of beating and torturing the two loan-modification agents, whom they believe defrauded them and did nothing to help them keep their home in a Los Angeles suburb from going into foreclosure, prosecutors said.
Daniel Weston and Mary Ann Parmelee and their accomplices allegedly lured loan agents Lamond Dean and Gustavo Canez into a Glendale home last week. There they held the pair for hours, robbed them, threatened them with a firearm and beat them with "wooden knuckles," according to prosecutors
Weston and Parmelee live in home under foreclosure in La Canada-Flintridge and "allegedly sought loan modification assistance from the victims but believed that nothing was being done and wanted their money back," said Shiara Davila-Morales, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney.
The five defendants intended to "cause cruel and extreme pain and suffering for the purpose of revenge, extortion, persuasion and for a sadistic purpose, inflict great bodily injury," according to court documents.
One of the two men escaped their alleged captors and alerted police on Oct. 20. Both men were taken to the hospital and later released.
Parmelee, 52, along with Mario Soloman Gonzales, 47, and Marissa Parker, 49, were arraigned last week and face two counts each of torture, false imprisonment by violence and second-degree robbery.
According to authorities those three watched as Weston, 52, and Gustavo Canez, 36, allegedly beat and robbed them.
"Weston and Canez allegedly carried out the attack in the presence of the other defendants. The victims also were allegedly robbed of their loan paperwork and personal belongings," said Davila-Morales in a statement.
Those men were arraigned Monday and face the same charges plus additional weapons charges, according to the felony complaint filed in court.
All five of the accused have pleaded not guilty.
The defendants are each being held on $1 million bail and face charges that could land them in prison for life.
Defense attorney Stephen Douglas Wegman, who is representing Gonzales and Parker, told ABC News.com that "there was loan fraud involved" but that his "clients have nothing to do with the incident." He said his clients were "both innocent," but would not comment on whether they were at the home in Glendale where the alleged torture took place.
Public defender Michael Ramirez-Mares said his client Gustavo Canez "pleaded not guilty and was entitled to his day in court."
Calls to the lawyers for Weston and Parmelee were not returned.
Paremelee is herself a real estate agent and if loan fraud was committed, she would be one of thousands of Californians whose home was in foreclosure and became a victim of a modification scam.
In September there were 50,342 homes in foreclosure in California, or 1 in every 53 homes.
The state is the third-worst hit by the foreclosure crisis in the country.
On the heels of the housing crisis, a number of illegal schemes have propagated in California, leading state Attorney General Jerry Brown to crack down, in particular, on loan-modification schemes.
Authorities have not yet disclosed what company the agents worked for, but on Oct. 6, Parmelee filed a civil suit Newport Home Loan, Inc. in Los Angeles County Court.
A public records search found that the home Paremelee and Weston shared on La Canada Blvd, had tens of thousands of dollars worth of judgments liens against it dating back to 2000.
Weston declared Chapter 13, or personal bankruptcy, in June.