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Lawyer convicted in mortgage scheme now accused of hiding assets to avoid restitution

Steven Barry Ruza 

MASON, MI — An attorney convicted of conducting a mortgage scheme was charged Friday with four additional felonies for trying to avoid paying restitution to the victims of his scam. 

Steven Barry Ruza, 54, of Shelby Township was charged in Ingham County’s 55th District Court with several crimes related to the alleged scam, according to the Michigan Attorney General’s office, which filed the charges.

Ruza is accused of using someone else’s identity to hide assets that could be used to pay the $348,025.50 in restitution he still owes to the Department of Attorney General’s Foreclosure Rescue Scam Victim Restitution Fund.

“This individual shows a clear disregard for the law. Less than one year after admitting guilt in a scheme that scammed many, out of not only their money but their homes, he is allegedly breaking the law once again in order to avoid his legal obligations,” said Attorney General Bill Schuette in a statement.

Ruza was ordered to pay $610,000 in restitution following a 2015 conviction for conducting a criminal enterprise.

He and his business stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients who were facing mortgage foreclosures and seeking assistance, investigators found.

Ruza, of Orchard Lake, and his company, Home Legal Group, promised upwards of 114 victims they could obtain mortgage modifications and save their homes from foreclosure, but then did nothing, or very little, to obtain mortgage modifications for the victims, prosecutors alleged. They did, however, collect hundreds of thousands in fees. 

He eventually pleaded guilty to one count conducting a criminal enterprise and was sentenced to one year in jail and five years probation. He was released from jail in September 2016, according to the Attorney General’s office.

The attorney general’s office got a tip earlier this year that Ruza had hidden a large sum of money. An investigation revealed Ruza allegedly got a driver’s license in December 2016 with his photo, but someone else’s name, using the birth certificate of the person whose identity he stole, according to the Attorney General’s office. 

Ruza is also accused of falsifying information on a car title application, saying he bought a used vehicle for $500, but really paying thousands of dollars in cash for the car, prosecutors allege.

The new charges against Ruza include one count of perjury, one count of false statement in application for certificate title, one count of false certification – driver’s license and one count of identity theft.

Magistrate Mark Blumer set a $150,000 cash or surety bond. Ruza was also ordered to turn over all driver’s licenses and passports in his name or any other name.

Article source: http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2017/07/woman_recounts_youth_pastor_se.html

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