- Associated Press - Saturday, June 20, 2015

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) - Authorities say a longshoreman scammed six co-workers out of nearly $87,000 through a fraudulent mortgage loan modification program.

Union County prosecutors say 60-year-old Pedro Lopez, of Elizabeth, is charged with theft by deception.

Starting in June 2010, Lopez allegedly approached co-workers at the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal to solicit their involvement in the program.

Authorities say he told his colleagues it would significantly lower their individual mortgage payments, or possibly eliminate their mortgages altogether. Each victim had to pay up to $15,000 to become part of the program, and several were later asked for additional funds for processing paperwork.

Lopez allegedly collected $86,800 overall from the six victims, and repeatedly gave them assurances over a period of five years that the program would yield results. But authorities say none of the promised mortgage savings ever materialized.

Lopez could face 10 years in prison if convicted. It wasn’t known if he’s retained an attorney, and a telephone number for him could not be located Saturday.

Authorities have not said what Lopez allegedly did with the money they say he collected, or if any of the alleged victims have received restitution.

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