An Owings Mills man has pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud after prosecutors alleged he took money from at least 48 homeowners to help them get loan modifications, then stole the monthly payments they thought were going to their lenders, the state said Thursday.

Rodney Getlan, 45, could be sentenced to as many as 90 years in prison. The state is seeking a 40-year sentence with 10 years suspended, along with restitution of about $400,000 to the victims, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation said.

Loan-modification scams spread like wildfire in Maryland and nationwide as the foreclosure crisis set in. But Getlan's scheme was worse than the usual method of taking a big upfront fee and then doing little or nothing to help, officials say.

In addition to charging a fee, he also forged documents to make it appear that lenders had approved the hoped-for loan modifications, according to the charging document. Getlan, who used numerous bank accounts and fake company names, made homeowners think they were sending their "new" monthly payments to their mortgage servicers even though the money was actually going to him, the state said.

"This piles theft on top of the standard loan-mod scam," said Mark Kaufman, the state's commissioner of financial regulation, whose office worked on the case with Baltimore County prosecutors and police. "A lot of the cases we've had and continue to have are … 'give me an upfront fee to help you get a loan modification.' This is worse than that by a pretty wide margin."

Getlan offered his services to struggling homeowners for three years, ending in January, the state said. Some of his clients have lost their homes to foreclosure. Mortgage servicers send out warnings before foreclosing, but the state said Getlan changed the contact information on file with his clients' servicers so notices would go to him instead.

Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 3.

jhopkins@baltsun.com

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