Knowing federal officials in Santa Ana were contemplating criminal charges against her for posing as an attorney and operating a mortgage scam, 30-year-old Najia Jalan decided this month to buy a one-way ticket from LAX through Dubai to Afghanistan on Emirates Airline.
But as the backpack-toting Jalan boarded the Oct. 18 flight, two special agents with the U.S. Department of Treasury's Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) arrested her on mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.
Less than 48 hours earlier, Jalan--who has used the names Poh Yee Neo, Sarah Adams and Korina Taylor--met with Assistant United States Attorney Ivy A. Wang and federal agents inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse and learned the government contemplated her arrest, according to court records.
A federal magistrate has denied her bail because of flight risk concerns and she is now in the custody of the U.S. Marshal while awaiting a Nov. 3 arraignment where she will announce her formal answer to the charges.
Jalan is familiar with the inside of courtrooms. She has convictions for burglary, theft, possession of narcotics, obtaining money under false pretenses and, most recently, an August arrest for felony possession of a controlled substance. In Dec. 2012, the Consumer Financial Protection Board won a restraining order against her and her business, National Legal Help Center (NLHC), for violating numerous laws relating to mortgage assistance services.
According to an Oct. 20 Treasury Department complaint, Jalan--who is not a licensed attorney--used NLHC as well as United National Mortgage Protection Center, OC NonProfit, American Consumer Law Center, The US Litigation Firm, The US Law Firm and National Consumer Assistance Center Business Trust to trick victims into paying her substantial fees for fake services.
In one case, Jalan posed as Poh Yee Neo and Korina Taylor while running a three-year, $50,000 scam on a Florida woman, who had been panicked about preventing foreclosure on her home following a divorce, according to court records. That victim made $1,850 monthly payments during one year alone, and nonetheless ended up evicted from her house.
Federal agents also claim Jalan conducted her affairs in an office at 23 Corporate Park Plaza in Newport Beach and, in July, moved out "in the middle of the night" after failing to pay rent.
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(Note: The real Poh "Pauline" Yee Neo is a licensed lawyer, works in Hong Kong and has no connection to Jalan.)
A federal judge has not yet been selected to preside in the case.