A Hispanic man was sentenced to seven years in prison Friday for his role in a loan scam that duped immigrants in Montgomery County out of thousands of dollars.
Carlos Sanchez, who is also known as Wilson Hernandez, was convicted in July of six theft charges and one count of mortgage fraud. Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Ronald Rubin sentenced Sanchez to 14 years in prison, but then suspended half of the time.
Between early 2010 and early 2012, Sanchez, 36, and Franco Villatoro, 32, scammed a total of about $50,000 from 11 Montgomery County residents, authorities said.
The defendant told victims, who Rubin described as financially "desperate," that they could get them favorable home and business loans. Sanchez told the victims that he could get them the loans because he had connections to powerful people in the business world.
The victims were told to pay some fees upfront. Although they were promised loans, the victims never received them, officials said.
Jose Molina, a victim who was scammed out of $6,000, said after the sentencing that he was promised a loan of $1 million to buy a radio station. He ended up losing the business that he was renting at the time. Assistant State's Attorney Curt Zeager said that at least two people lost their homes.
"I believe it's fair," Molina said of Sanchez' sentence.
The defendant's lawyer, Timothy Clarke, said during the sentencing that Villatoro was responsible for the scheme, not his client.
Sanchez, wearing a green jail uniform, apologized to those who were hurt by the scam but said, "I never done any of these things."
However, Molina said that the defendant "personally introduced himself as the boss."
Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said he thinks that the scam targeted Hispanics because the crooks thought they would not report the crimes. He said that it's important for immigrant victims and witnesses of crimes to come forward.
"We are not concerned with the status of your immigration papers," he said.
Villatoro, who was illegally in the United States, pleaded guilty to his involvement in the scam in June and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with all but six months suspended. As of a month ago, he was in custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement so that he could be deported to El Salvador, Zeager said.