Harford couple duped in mortgage fraud

A Baltimore man was sentenced to spend 13 months in jail last week for defrauding a Harford County couple in a mortgage workout scam that a prosecutor says cost them thousands of dollars and may have contributed to the loss of their home.

Frank G. Debelius, 54, of the 7800 block of Eastern Avenue in Baltimore, pleaded guilty June 8 in Harford County Circuit Court to theft of more than $500 and violating the state's Protection of Homeowners in Foreclosure Act.

"It's the first mortgage fraud case that has been prosecuted in Harford County," Bill Christoforo, a veteran assistant state's attorney who prosecuted the case, said.

In March of 2009, Clark and Cheryl Rorie, ran into financial difficulties after Clark Rorie was forced to leave his government job because of heart ailments, according to Christoforo.

Christoforo retired last year, but continued his involvement in the case until it came to a close last week.

Cheryl Rorie's salary through her job at Aberdeen Proving Ground was not enough to keep up with payments on their individual home, located in Edgewood, and the couple ultimately sought assistance from Debelius, with whom they had prior professional connections.

Debelius told the couple he was with Bay One Mortgage, provided them with his professional card and offered to help them, according to the prosecutor.

"The long and short of it was this guy said, 'I'm going to do a workout for you with your mortgage company,'" Christoforo said.

Debelius told the Rories that he went to their mortgage company and convinced that company to knock $100,000 off the principal of the loan and extend their payments, Christoforo explained.

Debelius then told the Rories he needed $8,500 in order to complete the deal, and the Rories made the payment.

"He was never in contact with the mortgage holder and never made it happen," Christoforo said.

Christoforo said Debelius presented himself as a professional, provided identification and the Rories had also visited his office located in Baltimore.

"These people are fairly sophisticated, but they believed this guy," Christoforo said.

The couple started getting foreclosure notices, which Debelius in turn told them to ignore.

"He told them, 'don't worry about that, you don't have to pay those, I've taken care of it,'" Christoforo said.

When the notices continued, the Rories became nervous and tried to contact Debelius, who did not respond to their calls.

A check that Cheryl Rorie made out to Bay One Mortgage was deposited into Debelius' account and listed his name, not the business's name, on the check, Christoforo said.

"In my opinion he washed the check and put his name on it," the prosecutor said.

The couple's foreclosure troubles ultimately came to the attention of Circuit Court Judge William Carr, who referred the case to the Harford State's Attorney's Office.

"Unfortunately it was really too late," Christoforo said. "They lost their home."

Christoforo speculated that the $8,500 may have helped the couple keep the home.

A nine-count grand jury indictment was handed down against Debelius in June 2010.

Last week, Debelius pleaded guilty to two counts and was sentenced to three years in jail, by Circuit Court Judge Emory Plitt Jr., who then suspended one year and 11 months of that sentence. Debelius also received one day credit on his jail sentence.

Debelius was ordered to serve four years supervised probation upon his release from jail and to pay restitution.

Christoforo said the Rories may not have been Debelius' only victims.

He said another woman in Baltimore City has made similar claims against Debelius.

"My feeling is there's other cases like this, probably that have gone on or are going on in the [Harford] county," Christoforo said.

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