A Chandler man who tricked couples out of their homes and then filed bankruptcy in the couples' names was sentenced on Wednesday in U.S. District Court to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay $86,000 in restitution.
Mario G. Bernadel, 48, pleaded guilty last year to two counts of fraudulently filing bankruptcy petitions on behalf of people who had no idea he was doing it.
Prosecutors said in 2002, Bernadel persuaded two Valley married couples, whose homes were in foreclosure, to sign their homes over to him. He told the couples this would keep the foreclosures off their credit reports. Once he owned the homes, Bernadel rented or leased the properties and kept the money.
In April and October 2003, Bernadel filed Chapter 13 voluntary bankruptcy petitions in the names of the homeowners without their knowledge, prosecutors said, thereby stopping the foreclosure process on the houses. He collected rent on the properties until the homes were eventually foreclosed upon, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
U.S. District Judge James A. Teilborg noted during sentencing that Bernadel preyed upon people who were particularly vulnerable due to the stresses of possibly losing their homes. In addition to restitution, Teilborg ordered Bernadel to pay a $5,000 fine. He’ll also serve three years of probation after his prison term.