The manager of a Los Angeles-based foreclosure consultation business which had a Santa Maria office, entered a no-contest plea this week to eight counts of committing prohibited foreclosure practices.
Irma Diaz, 41, of Hacienda Heights, entered the plea Thursday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria.
Prosecutors had charged Diaz with eight felony counts, but Judge Edward Bullard permitted her to plead no contest to five misdemeanors and three felonies, which could all be reduced to misdemeanors if she follows the judge’s terms.
“Over our objection, he reduced them to misdemeanors,” said Senior Deputy District Attorney Jerry Lulejian.
Sentencing was postponed until Jan. 6 to allow Diaz time to make restitution to the victims.
Each misdemeanor carries a possible maximum sentence of one year in county jail. The felony charges could bring prison time.
Diaz has been released from county jail pending sentencing, but remains in jail because of a hold by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Diaz is the manager of Caretaker Plan, which has an office in the 900 block of South Broadway.
She violated the rights of local residents whose homes were in or nearing default.
Investigators suspect Diaz took part in a scam whereby victims paid her money to refinance their homes, but she didn’t complete the process.
She was originally charged with victimizing two people, but prosecutors amended the criminal complaint they filed against her to include six additional alleged victims.
Lulejian has said all but one of the victims are from Santa Maria, and the crimes happened here. She took between $35,000 and $40,000 from the victims in all, Lulejian said, which she didn’t keep directly but that instead went to the organization she is a part of.
During an earlier hearing, Diaz’s attorney Robert Sanger made a motion to have the charges reduced to misdemeanors, but Bullard denied his request for the time being, according to Lulejian.
Sanger could not be reached Friday.
Lulejian said that he believes Diaz should have been convicted of all the felonies.
“We want to scare people away from doing this kind of activity in the community,” he added.
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