LAS VEGAS (AP) — Seven people scammed by a business called Save Your House received restitution checks Wednesday, and Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto offered their experience as a lesson for homeowners seeking to modify mortgages in the state hardest hit by foreclosures.

Masto said restitution for 12 victims was a condition of a plea deal that allowed the co-owners of the now-defunct Las Vegas company and one employee to avoid trial on felony charges. They pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and avoided jail time.

"We get to hold these people accountable, but we also get the money back from them and restitution for the victims," Masto told reporters and several victims and their families at her Las Vegas office. She called the case unique because of the speed with which prosecutor Samuel Kern obtained restitution.

Attorney Ramon Dy-Ragos, 42, and business owner Jesus Baca, 33, each pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge and agreed to repay a total of $43,772. Each was sentenced last month to a one-year suspended jail sentence and up to two years' probation.

Baca's father, company employee Luis Baca, 55, of El Paso, Texas, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor deceptive trade practice charge. He was sentenced to the one day he already served in jail, Kern said.

Masto said the restitution checks, which averaged about $3,600, went to victims who paid big up-front fees based on a false guarantee they would receive a loan modification with lower monthly payments.

Loly Anllo, 49, of North Las Vegas, said she was glad to get back $3,000 she paid for work never performed. She said she was eventually able to refinance her mortgage herself and keep her house. She sobbed as she tried to tell reporters about the struggle.

She urged other victims to come forward.

Todd Grosz, an investigator in the attorney general's office, said he wasn't able to determine how many people Save Your House served while it was open in 2008 and 2009. But he said witnesses reported stacks of file folders piled on the floor of the business.

Nevada spent more than five years as the top state for foreclosures in the nation, until Arizona knocked it from the top spot in March. Nevada reclaimed the title in April.

"Most homeowners or victims in this type of case who are seeking assistance will do anything they can to save their home," Masto said. "Why not? It's the American dream."

But the attorney general said no one can guarantee a loan modification or the ability to stop a foreclosure, and banks don't seek up-front money for services.

Masto offered several other tips, including never signing a contract under pressure and never transferring property to anyone calling themselves a mortgage consultant, foreclosure service of loan modification specialist.

She said Nevada residents who think they may be scammed can call her office's Bureau of Consumer Protection Hotline at 702-486-3132.



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