A Mesa police officer and his wife have been arrested for lying to their mortgage lender after a federal investigation.
Blanca and Mark Escarcega purchased a home four years ago in Santa Rita Ranch in Mesa. According to Zillow.com, they paid $344,000 for the 1,880-square-foot home. Today, Zillow.com estimates it's only worth $175,000.
According to the Maricopa county attorney's office, the trouble began when Blanca wrote a hardship letter to their lender, Bank of America, asking for a loan modification, claiming she and her husband had separated.
According to court documents, she wrote the letter between October 2009 and August 2010. Bank of America gave her a loan modification, with the stipulation she live there at least another year.
But the county attorney's office said the couple was never separated. Instead, they rented out their Santa Rita home, and together purchased a 4,000-square-foot home in Valencia Groves in Mesa last August. According to county records, the couple paid $325,000 for their new home, using $10,395 as a down payment.
According to sources, Mark Escarcega came to work bragging about how he and his wife had rigged a deal with their lender to move up in house, but his colleagues recognized fraud and told the chief, who notified the FBI.
On Monday, both Blanca and Mark Escarcega were booked and charged with one count of residential mortgage fraud. If convicted, they could get up to three years behind bars. Both pleaded not guilty.
Michelle Christie is their current tenant, who knew nothing of her landlords' legal troubles. "It's kind of upsetting," Christie said. "Hopefully the owners will contact me and let me know what's going to happen to me, and my kids."
Kelly Gorman is a real estate attorney in Glendale. He said even the slightest fib on a mortgage application is considered fraud.
"There are people now that will try to game the system, because they know there are others catching breaks on their loans. So they'll try to restructure it," Gorman said.
The Mesa police department has suspended Escarcega on administrative leave until it can conduct its own internal investigation.