A Higley special-education teacher has been indicted along with 18 other people in a nationwide mortgage scam authorities say bilked millions from struggling homeowners.
Sarah Mattson, 27, a teacher at Higley Elementary and Middle School in Gilbert, was named in the 13-count indictment filed Feb. 28 in U.S. District Court in California. The indictment was released to the public Monday.
Mattson, who could not be reached for comment, will continue to teach her classes, though Higley Unified School District officials said Tuesday they are monitoring the situation.
"The district's position is that this is an indictment, not a conviction," stated district spokeswoman Sara Bresnahan in an e-mail. "So we are monitoring the situation, but we do support 'innocent until proven guilty.' The situation does not involve anything child or education related so in such a situation (we would) not put a person on leave."
Mattson's attorney in Sacramento, Calif., Steve Bauer, said Tuesday his client will plead not guilty at her first court appearance.
"There are, as always in cases like this, a layering effect," he said. "There's someone at the top and some people down at the bottom."
According to court filings, the defendants, headed by Charles Head, 33, of Los Angeles, "conspired to target homeowners' distress and perpetuated a 'foreclosure rescue' scam" by pretending to bail their victims out of pending foreclosure.
In reality, the group simply took over ownership, borrowed as much as possible against the home's equity and ultimately sold the home, stopped paying the mortgage or evicted the homeowner, usually leaving them without a home or equity and damaged credit, according to the indictment.
And while the indictment claims Head profited handsomely from the arrangement, "the same is not true of my client," Bauer said.
Mattson was the only Arizonan named in the investigation. Head was arrested March 21 in the Los Angeles area. The rest of the defendants, including Mattson, will be summoned to appear in federal court in Sacramento within the next couple of weeks, said Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento.