Montecito’s Ben Alexander-Owens Anderson, 40, offers courses and coaching on “How to Become a Successful Loan Originator” and heavily promotes himself as a public figure “mortgage mogul.”
What is not apparent on Mr. Anderson’s website (which was active until this investigation began) or any of his social media channels, is that in March 2019 the California Department of Business Oversight revoked his Mortgage Loan Originator license.
During that same year, Mr. Anderson’s license to initiate mortgages was also revoked in three other states — Washington, Illinois and Ohio — for “not meeting the standards required” to be licensed as an MLO.
This is largely because, three years earlier, in March 2016, a jury held Mr. Anderson liable for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, misappropriation of confidential information and five other causes of action.
After a seven-week trial the jury in that case concluded that Mr. Anderson had defrauded his employer, Mount Olympus Mortgage, of Irvine — and awarded the plaintiff damages against Mr. Anderson in the amounts of $5,607,000 in lost profits and $215,654 in punitive damages.
CONFIDENTIAL CLIENT DATA MISAPPROPRIATED
The Chicago Tribune reported that Mr. Anderson had downloaded and transferred to another mortgage company, Chicago-based Guaranteed Rate, “more than 200 active loan files and personal financial data on 900 borrowers before switching firms,” even though he had signed a confidentiality agreement upon joining Mount Olympus that precluded such treachery and enabled Guaranteed Rate to engage in unfair competition.
Said Chad Hummel, a Los Angeles-based partner with Sidley Austin who represented the aggrieved mortgage company: “It was quite an elaborate scheme. He (Mr. Anderson) transferred all of the data without our client’s consent.”
Or, as the commissioner of business oversight put it: “Beginning as early as April 2014, Anderson began making arrangements to move from Mount Olympus to a different employer, Guaranteed Rate. In exchange, for compensation by Guaranteed, Anderson surreptitiously and without Mount Olympus’s knowledge or consent, arranged to transfer Mount Olympus’s confidential and proprietary information to Guaranteed before leaving Mount Olympus.
“Between March and June 2014, Anderson initiated and abetted the transfer of Mount Olympus borrowers’ tax returns and bank account statements to Guaranteed, in violation of Mount Olympus’s written policies, which Anderson had signed and agreed to abide by,” the commissioner said.
Mr. Anderson is reported to have joined Guaranteed Rate immediately after being fired in June 2014 by Mount Olympus, his original sponsor for an MLO license. (Mount Olympus also sued Guaranteed Rate over Mr. Anderson’s egregious behavior and won a judgment for $13 million in punitive damages, $5.6 million in lost profits and $4.6 million in lost business value.)
In addition to citing this case as cause for revoking Mr. Anderson’s license, the California Department of Business Oversight also chastised Mr. Anderson for “failure to promptly disclose the fact that he had been named in a lawsuit whereby an injunction was sought against him from engaging in certain financial services related activity.”
The department further castigated Mr. Anderson for failing to disclose liens taken against him, as required by their regulations.
Revoking Mr. Anderson’s license, Administrative Judge Matthew Goldsby wrote that he “misrepresented that he had no unsatisfied liens when in fact two prior tax liens were recorded and not paid” and that “cause exists to discipline respondent’s license number… because he failed to meet the statutory requirements and withheld information or made material misstatements in his application for a license and license renewals.”
Mr. Anderson’s website billed him as “a best-selling author” of a book titled “Homeowner Now.” However, this is a 73-page self-published book that, as far as we can see, has not appeared on any bestseller lists.
Mark Leyes of the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation told The Investigator: “Mr. Anderson is not currently licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation to act as a mortgage loan originator in California. He may NOT act as an MLO unless and until he applies for and is approved for a license. Both the California Financing Law and California Residential Mortgage Lending Act regulate the conduct of MLOs in California and provide for criminal liability based on willful violations of any provision of those laws, including engaging in unlicensed MLO activity.”
Soon after his MLO license was revoked, Mr. Anderson, who apparently attended Biola (a Christian college in La Mirada founded as a Bible institute), relocated his residence from Orange County to Montecito — perhaps, in our opinion, to make a fresh start.
However, reports reaching us allege that this ex-mortgage originator may be endeavoring to broker mortgages even though he no longer possesses the proper licensing to do so.
A person familiar with the company Ben Anderson 365 told The Investigator that, through 2020 (after he had lost his license), Mr. Anderson “coached a team of loan initiators, and originated loans personally as well, for a company called PRMG.”
Paramount Residential Mortgage Group is based in Corona. We reached out to PRMG for comment, but no one in the company responded.
And in a post on his Instagram account dated Feb, 10 of this year, under the heading “Happy Client,” Mr. Anderson quoted Frank@amdur.us: “Out of my 27 home purchases and my refinancing with you…” and “I was pleased to refer you to another family member who is looking for a new home.” It is unclear when or where Mr. Anderson refinanced a home for Frank@amdur.us. But if it was in California since March 2019, it would be in violation of California Financial Code 50500, as cited by Mr. Leyes: “Any person who willfully violates any provision of this division, or any rule or order under this division, shall, upon conviction be subject to a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or imprisonment in the state prison or in a county jail for not more than one year, or to both that fine and imprisonment.”
We reached out to Mr. Anderson to confirm or deny if he has handled mortgages since his license was revoked.
Mr. Anderson responded, “I can tell you that I am abiding by the order.”
In December 2020, soon after moving to Montecito, Mr. Anderson applied for an MLO license In Idaho.
“Consistent with normal practice,” wrote Patricia Perkins, director of Idaho’s Department of Finance, “a Department examiner conducted an assessment of the applicant using various sources of information to determine if the Applicant demonstrates sufficient financial responsibility, character, and general fitness in order to be licensed as a mortgage loan initiator.”
Mr. Anderson’s request for a license in Idaho was denied.
“The Applicant,” reads that Order, “does not have the character and fitness sufficient to warrant belief that he will operate honestly and fairly.”
In any case, an MLO license in Idaho or any other state would not allow Mr. Anderson to initiate mortgages within the state of California.
Mark Leyes told The Investigator: A person with an MLO license from another state may assist a California-based borrower on a mortgage on property inside the state where he is licensed but not inside California.
As with “Alice in Wonderland,” Mr. Anderson’s business practices, in our opinion, get curiouser and curiouser —vand potentially seriouser and seriouser, if true, given the penalties involved.
In April 2020, a year after Mr. Anderson’s MLO license was revoked, the Ben Anderson 365 Corp., registered at 9920 Research Drive in Irvine, received a Paycheck Protection Program loan (which turned out to be free money) from the Small Business Administration in the amount of $102,436 after it applied to the program on behalf of 11 employees who, the corporation claimed, were in need of funding to keep their jobs during the COVID-19 lockdown.
When we checked, we found the toll-free number that links to Ben Anderson 365 Corp. in Irvine is disconnected.
In January 2021, Ben Anderson 365 Corp. applied for and received a second PPP loan, this time in the amount of $97,700, purportedly on behalf of six employees whose jobs the company linked to an address on East Valley Road in Montecito. This is a residential address (presumably where Mr. Anderson resided at the time) and not zoned commercial.
Problem: A former Ben Anderson 365 contractor told The Investigator that by January 2021, all of Mr. Anderson’s employees had either left or were fired, aside from Ben’s sister-in-law.
PPP loan fraud is a federal crime, and violations can lead to a $1 million fine and 30 years imprisonment.
At his State of Union address, President Joe Biden announced that “the Justice Department will name a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud.”
Last month, Raymond Magana of Los Angeles County was sentenced to 41 months in prison and ordered to pay $360,415 in restitution for committing PPP fraud, which has been described as the largest fraud in U.S. history.
If you suspect PPP fraud, access pandemicoversight.gov and file a complaint electronically.
Now back to Mr. Anderson: If he truly employed a staff of six in January 2021 (contrary to what we have been told), and they were beneficiaries of PPP loans, what are their names and what are the amounts of funds that were allocated to them?
The Investigator reached out to Mr. Anderson to confirm or deny if he had only one employee when he applied for and received PPP funds for six employees in January 2021.
Mr. Anderson replied: “I can confirm that I had more than 1 employee in January of 2021.”
The Investigator followed up: “As mentioned earlier, we have a source who claims you had only one employee, your sister-in- law, in January 2021. This is important because in January 2021 you applied for and received a (second) PPP loan in the amount of $97,700. To fully resolve what I’ve been hearing from our source, I would be grateful if you would provide the identities of the six employees who were allocated PPP funds from that January 2021 PPP loan.”
Mr. Anderson replied: “Confidentiality and in good business practice I can’t disclose the identity of my employees, I’m sure you can appreciate that. But I can tell you I had several employees in January 2021.”
We followed up: “While we understand your stance regarding confidentiality, we think the suggestion of PPP fraud is serious enough to outweigh any such concern. We can assure you that, if divulged, we would not publish the names of your employees, but only ensure that they exist and that they received PPP funds. Obviously, failing to provide such information creates enough doubt to justify raising the allegation based on what we’ve learned. So, we ask you, please, to reconsider and identify the six employees who received PPP loan payments in January 2021.”
Mr. Anderson did not respond.
TY WARNER UPDATE
’Tis almost mid-year, and there is nothing going on at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara in Montecito to suggest reopening is anywhere near.
On the contrary, we have learned from an authoritative source that Ty Warner is quietly trying to find a buyer for his Channel Drive resort, putting out feelers among the mega-wealthy within that high-end industry.
We are informed that a couple of Montecito residents were asked by one prospective buyer to visit and scout out the premises. They reported back: Don’t bother, the interior has decayed and become a smelly, musty mess (in a beachside enclave whose residents are scared stiff of black mold); that it will likely take a huge chunk of change to bring it back to its former glory and probably not worth the would-be buyer’s effort.
The Investigator stopped by the Biltmore and spoke with an employee, who confirmed that there is no plan to reopen the resort anytime soon; that no such preparations are even scheduled. Furthermore, he confirmed that the interior of the hotel has become a malodorous mess.
“You can imagine what happens to a place, especially by the ocean, when left alone,” he told The Investigator. “But I’d rather not say.”
It is shameful that the Beanie Baby tycoon has allowed this Montecito landmark to languish and deteriorate over the past 26 months. The consensus among Montecitans is that Ty’s contribution some years ago toward beautifying Butterfly Beach has, sadly, been soiled by his deliberate neglect and lack of candor.
In this regard, Mr. Warner makes a good case, single-handedly, for a special tax to be excised on commercial properties that are willfully left unoccupied to the detriment of a community.
On another Ty front, a trial is scheduled to begin on May 31 over claims by more than 300 former Biltmore employees that Mr. Warner failed to pay them proper severance and, while they were “furloughed,” canceled their health insurance.
We reached out again to the Biltmore for clarification on a) if they are looking for a buyer and b) a confirmation or denial of decrepit conditions on site.
The person we reached by phone told us: “We have a skeleton staff. I am not in a position to answer any questions.”
We asked: “Is there someone, anyone, who can answer our questions?”
He replied simply and tersely: “No.”
Maybe the time has come for Ty to create a Beany Baby locust to symbolize the damage he leaves in his wake.
BLM (BUNDLES OF LOOTED MONEY)
A local church, the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara (corner of East Arrellaga Street and Santa Barbara Street) prominently displays a “Black Lives Matter” banner.
It is always unfortunate when religion becomes politicized; one likes to think spirituality deserves a higher plane.
The incongruity is even more pronounced in this case after revelations that BLM administrators have been looting from their $90 million “charity” to pay for real estate benefiting themselves and ensuring that their friends receive hefty salaries and healthy grants.
It gives “Charity Starts at Home” a whole new meaning…
We wrote to the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara with these questions:
“How do you reconcile involving politics in religion/spirituality?”
“Are you aware of recent revelations about BLM administrators looting from their ‘charity’ ”?
The Rev. Julia Hamilton responded:
“For this congregation, anti-racism work is a spiritual practice, grounded in our commitment to affirming the inherent worth and dignity of all people and honoring the interdependence of our lives.
“We live in a nation that has systematically devalued Black lives for generations, and as the recent mass shooting in Buffalo has shown, the violent rhetoric of white supremacy is alive and well,” the Rev. Hamilton wrote. “We cannot heal from the legacy of slavery, segregation and white supremacy until we are willing to confront the problem of anti-Blackness and dismantle the systems of oppression that are killing Black people in this nation every day.
“To proclaim that Black Lives Matter is to be part of a movement for justice, not an organization.
“Institutional racism and white supremacy cause harm and suffering to all members of society, but systemic anti-Blackness must be acknowledged if we are going to make any progress toward healing. This is why we proclaim that Black Lives Matter.”
Good to hear clarification that they are supporting a movement, not a corrupt organization. But we continue to feel that ALL lives matter and, when you study the facts, it is mostly blacks who are killing blacks in this nation every day, not white supremacy and oppression.
COVID: THE 11TH LESSON
A couple readers wrote to reprimand us for neglecting to include the “11th lesson” learned (thus far) from the COVID-19 pandemic.
K.K. wrote to say: “Thank you for a nearly unbiased article calling out the incompetence over the last couple years. What seems to be mysteriously missing from this list is the role that journalists have played in this mess. Their irresponsible use of power has led many astray and should share the blame with the likes of big pharma, Fauci, our government, etc. If you’re going to go for the big guys, don’t forget to include the role your own industry has played.”
Agreed, K.K. No mystery; here goes: Mainstream journalists with their inane narrative have much to answer for.
Part of the problem is the corporatization of media that has taken place over the past 35 years. A media in bed with the corporate world is never a good thing for democracy and a truly free fourth estate. Hooray for the privately owned independent newspapers that manage to remain in business against all odds.
D.K. was somewhat more aggressive: “At least half of your list of 10 are crimes against humanity and treasonous, and your industry knowingly participated, and you never even attempted to address this. In fact, you lead off blaming China which is another act of deliberate journalistic misdirection. Your actions make you equally guilty, and your admittance of knowing this but not addressing it negates any credibility you are seeking. The only upside of this whole episode is that many ‘journalists’, including yourself, will never be trusted ever again. You lied to everyone.”
Sorry, D.K., but you are mistaken: The Chinese Communist leadership is fundamentally a Number One in this sad saga because, well, it started with them. That said, the vote is still not in on how complicit our own government was in the biological research going on at Wuhan, funding that was allegedly spearheaded under the table at Dr. Anthony Fauci’s direction despite that program having been canceled by President Obama in 2015.
My dear old friend M.B. wrote to say: “I agree, we cannot trust China. They are a dictatorship. Look at what they do to their people. It’s horrible. I don’t agree with what you say about masks. I’ve had no COVID, flu or a cold, since wearing a mask. My daughter got COVID as soon as she took her mask off. Do you want your surgeon wearing a mask? I do.
“There is no free money. Taxes were paid for the money (or it was borrowed through the sale of government bonds) that was given to those without a job, due to the lockdown. It helped people to survive. I’m against those who stole from the government COVID-related loan program; time to investigate and prosecute.
“In the pandemic, it was decided to try a new style of vaccine to save lives. Most likely because of the vaccine, when people like yourself, my daughter, and my brother got COVID, it was a mild case, not disabling or fatal. That was the great benefit of it. Since the use of the vaccine, most people dying from COVID every day are the unvaccinated. The world is not perfect; we are always learning and growing.”
We agree with some of this, disagree with your stance on masks and vaccines (until more facts are in), but we will always defend to the death your freedom to express your views — all the while remaining friends!
Robert Eringer is a longtime Montecito author with vast experience in investigative journalism. He welcomes questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.