Former mortgage broker Eliza Bautista pleaded guilty to a felony Monday in the federal courthouse in Seattle five years after KING 5 exposed her crimes.
Federal authorities started looking into the case after seeing the story on television.
Bautista defrauded so-called friends and fellow church members by stealing their social security numbers. She then secretly used them to buy homes for other people.
Victims lost money and the dream of owning a home.
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David Seaver said the office achieved their goal of finally bringing Bautista to justice.
"We achieved what we wanted to achieve, and she's accepting responsibility, which is a good thing. And hopefully it provides some comfort to the people who were victimized so in that sense we are satisfied," said Seaver.
Mary Pelayo was one of the victims. She and her husband thought they’d bought their dream home in Shoreline in 2006, only to find out later that Bautista had stolen another person’s identity and good credit information to purchase the home. The Pelayos' credit was shaky. Three months after moving in, the Pelayos had to move out.
"We lived in this house for over three months. We thought this was our home. We started fixing it up. We put a lot of money into it (and) a lot of work. And then to find out it's not ours!" Pelayo said in 2006.
Why did it take so long to finish the case? The U.S. Attorney’s office said this is the type of crime that is extremely complex to piece together, but that they were committed to bringing closure to the case for the victims.
Bautista was allowed to plead guilty to one count of Misuse of a Social Security Number by agreeing to a sentence of 13 months in federal prison. The charge could carry a five year prison sentence.
Upon finding out the agreed upon sentence, Pelayo thought the penalty should be harsher.
“(She) destroyed lives, stole our money, destroyed our dream and all she gets is a slap on the wrist with 13 months in prison. How is this justice?” said Pelayo. "I am at least happy that now we can really put this behind us as she has taken so much from us already and that is time we will not get back."
Seaver said the case should serve as a warning to others participating in or thinking about getting involved in mortgage fraud.
“If the message we can get out to folks is that if you commit these crimes it may seem like at least, initially, that you've gotten away with something. But we can figure out what happened,” said Seaver.
Seaver also said the case is a good reminder that consumers should take caution when giving out personal and financial information.
Bautista will be formally sentenced in August.