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California men sentenced for Lending Tree computer theft

Two California men were sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to illegally access and use computerized database information from Charlotte-based online mortgage broker Lending Tree.com.

Brian Matthew Rich of Laguna Beach, Calif., was sentenced to two years in prison followed by two years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Robert Conrad Jr., according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte. The second man, Marcus Alan Avritt of Seal Beach, Calif., received a 15-month prison sentence plus two years of supervised release.

Judge Conrad also ordered both defendants to pay restitution to Lending Tree for an amount to be determined at a later date.

Rich and Avritt were co-owners of Chapman Capital, a California mortgage brokerage firm that also did business as Home Loan Consultants. According to court documents, the two defendants purchased unauthorized access to Lending Tree’s database, which had information on consumers who were applying for loans from 2007 through January 2008.  The indictment said that Rich and Avritt bought the access from another mortgage broker and co-defendant, Steve Kenneth Rosene. Rosene had obtained the unauthorized computer access from a fourth member involved in the scheme, Jarrod Beddingfield, a former Lending Tree employee, according to court documents.

Through the computer theft, Rich and Avritt avoided paying Lending Tree an estimated $745,152 in fees for mortgage leads, according to the court.

Last summer, Avritt and Rich pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to illegally access and use Lending Tree’s database. The other co-defendants, Rosene and Beddingfield, have also pleaded guilty to same charge. In addition, Rosene has pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized computer access/exceeded authorized access for commercial advantage and financial gain.

Both he and Beddingfield have yet to be sentenced by the court.

Avritt and Rich have been released on bond and will be ordered to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Federal sentences do not allow for parole.

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