(CNN)John and Julieanne Dimitrion scammed good people out of their homes, the FBI says, and then they disappeared.
They were the “masterminds of a large fraud scheme,” the FBI’s Brandon Simpson told CNN’s “The Hunt with John Walsh,” which hit Tricia Dano’s family especially hard.
Dano blames the Dimitrions for the loss of their cherished family home in Honolulu’s Kaimuki neighborhood.
For Dano, it started in 1999 when she moved from Washington state back to Hawaii to help her mother take care of her ailing grandmother.
Her grandmother “felt that if she was going to pass, she wanted to be at home, right where she belonged,” Dano said.
When the family began having trouble making house payments, they decided to refinance their mortgage.
Seeing an ad for the Dimitrions’ company, Mortgage Alliance on TV, Dano and her mother made an appointment.
The Dimitrions didn’t arrive until an hour into the meeting, Dano recalled. The couple made a memorable impression as they made their pitch wearing designer clothes and expensive jewelry.
The FBI said the Dimitrions pitched their scam like this: “We will have someone buy your property — but in name only. You’ll continue to live there and we’ll fix your credit and a year from now you’ll be able to buy that property back. You won’t lose it to foreclosure and you can keep your family home.”
“I thought, ‘These people definitely know what they’re doing,'” recalled Dano. “So we signed over the title, thinking that, ‘OK this is the first step to the rent-to-own process.'”
Then the Dimitrions found a “straw buyer” who purchased the Dano property in their name. That buyer was an acquaintance named Laura Cristo.
“They explained it to me that it was a short sale, that I wasn’t getting involved,” Cristo said.
She thought the Dimitrions were good people trying to help others, so Cristo said “OK.”
“I just started initialing and signing,” she remembered. “I never really read the papers.”