TAMPA — A fugitive mortgage broker who attorneys said bilked small-time investors out of more than $350,000 peddling risky and unlicensed home-loan securities was arrested Monday night in Tampa.
Tampa police stopped John Steve Tsavaris, who was driving a Jeep Wrangler with an expired license plate, about 7 p.m. near Gandy Boulevard and S Himes Avenue, Hillsborough sheriff's records show.
Tsavaris, 67, had been wanted since January, when a Pinellas County judge found him in civil contempt. Tsavaris was transferred to the Pinellas County Jail, where he remained Tuesday.
Tsavaris repeatedly avoided a 2012 order to pay back two Florida investors who were taken in by the same kinds of "toxic" mortgage-backed securities that helped usher in the housing crisis, court records show.
Though Tsavaris was not licensed to sell securities, court records show, he employed a "smile and dial" boiler room to peddle them. Sellers promised that the securities, backed by bundles of homeowners' mortgage payments, would net investors strong profits, like 11 percent returns.
Tsavaris' Home Saving Mortgage Corp. coordinated thousands of subprime home loans and refinancings across the state before crumbling during the housing crash.
The Largo brokerage had, during the frothiest days of the housing bubble, employed a large-scale telemarketing operation that could make a quarter-million calls a week.
One investor, a Tampa elementary school teacher who met Tsavaris at a "self-development transformation seminar," was 28 when she invested $225,000 that she and her husband had inherited after her mother's recent death, depositions show.
Another investor, an 81-year-old widow in Cocoa Beach, took out a reverse mortgage on her paid-off condo and invested more than $133,000 — all while attorneys said Tsavaris knew his investment operation was falling apart.