MIL-OSI Security: Virginia Man Pleads Guilty in Fake Law Firm Scheme that Defrauded Distressed Homeowners Out of $15 Million

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Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) State Crime Alerts (b)

            WASHINGTON – Terrylle Blackstone, 36, of Woodbridge, Virginia, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in a conspiracy that fraudulently promised thousands of homeowners across the U.S. legal help in avoiding foreclosure. The scheme generated at least $15 million for the conspirators but never provided any legal services to the client-victims.

          The plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves, Special Agent in Charge David J. Scott of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal and Cyber Division, and Executive Special Agent in Charge Kareem A. Carter of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Washington, D.C. Field Office.

          Blackstone today pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud before U.S District Court Judge Randolph D. Moss, who scheduled sentencing for October 3, 2024.

          According to court documents, when entering his guilty plea, Blackstone admitted that, from January 2018 until February 2021, he worked with codefendants David Maresca of Virginia, attorney Scott Marinelli of New Jersey, and attorney Sam Babbs of Florida. The co-conspirators told homeowners that they operated a “national law firm” based in Washington, D.C.; that attorneys would review the homeowner’s file and provide legal representation to the homeowners; that an attorney in the homeowner’s local area would be assigned to assist them; that the homeowner could meet and consult with those attorneys about the case; and that attorneys in their law firm could help the homeowner, if necessary, file for bankruptcy.

          Blackstone further admitted that, from 2016 until 2019, the conspirators marketed Synergy Law with telephone, television, and internet advertising which told homeowners that attorneys at Maresca and Marinelli’s Synergy Law in Manassas could help them avoid foreclosure. In early 2019, Marinelli was incarcerated in Pennsylvania. Yet Blackstone, Maresca, Marinelli, and others continued to operate Synergy and collect monthly payments purportedly for legal services. During this time, there was no attorney who was a member of Synergy who could practice law. Synergy never had attorneys review all homeowner files and Synergy never had attorneys contact a client’s lender to discuss a mortgage resolution. They also continued to use the interstate wires to operate their “law firm” in ways that were essential to the scheme, such as soliciting clients by telephone.

          And Blackstone admitted that, from 2019 until at least 2022, the conspirators marketed another firm, Themis Law, with television and website advertising which told homeowners that attorneys with Themis could help them avoid foreclosure. Themis operated a call center at an office in Manassas, Virginia. Call center workers used scripts during their phone calls with homeowners in which Themis falsely promised that an attorney would review the homeowner’s case file; that this attorney knew their lender’s “internal guidelines” for a “mortgage resolution”; and that an assigned “legal team” would contact the homeowner’s lender to negotiate a resolution. Themis required homeowner-clients to pay an initial retainer amount followed by a monthly recurring amount for as long as the firm represented the homeowner. Themis Law never provided legal services to the homeowner-clients.  When Themis clients faced imminent foreclosure, Themis advised those clients to consider filing for bankruptcy to save their home and referred the clients to Babbs at Babbs Law Firm. Those clients then signed a new retainer agreement and paid additional fees to Babbs. 

          During his dates of employment at Synergy Law and Themis Law, Blackstone received no less than $163,199.30 in direct payments from the companies.

          A federal district court judge will determine any sentence for Blackstone after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. In addition, the United States also will seek a forfeiture money judgment against him for an amount not less than $163,199.30

          This case was investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office and the Washington, D.C. Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations.

            It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney John Borchert.

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