California Real Estate Fraud Report

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San Jose woman sentenced for real estate Ponzi scheme

March 26th, 2015 at 7:51am

The office of United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced that Joyce Esther De Armero was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and ordered to pay restitution for mail fraud in a real estate investment fraud case.

De Armero, 37, pleaded guilty on December 4, 2014, to mail fraud and admitted that she conned investors into giving her money to invest in high-interest real estate loans with guaranteed returns between July 2008 and January 2010.  She confessed that she made no investments but spent the money on herself, other than using some of the funds from the later investors to re-pay the earlier ones, in order to keep her Ponzi scheme operating.

Read the original article in the Imperial Valley News.

Man pleads guilty in title fraud, property flipping case

March 26th, 2015 at 7:43am

According to U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, Daniel Deaibes has pleaded guilty for his role in a scheme to flip houses by first stealing the title to homes in Southern California.

In his plea agreement, Deaibes admitted that between September 2012 and November 2014 he and two alleged co-conspirators fraudulently sold or attempted to sell at least 10 homes for more than $2.3 million. Deaibes admitted that he and the alleged co-conspirators, one of whom owned several real estate businesses, would record fraudulent grant deeds at the county recorders’ offices and then immediately attempt to sell the properties to unsuspecting buyers.

The scheme unraveled when Fannie Mae, the owner of one of the properties, discovered the fraud and attempted to regain title. In response, Deaibes and the others created a fake “Withdrawal of Lis Pendens” in an effort to proceed with the fraudulent sale. Even after Fannie Mae won a court judgment, the co-conspirators recorded a fraudulent “Satisfaction of Judgment”.

Read the full article in FBI.gov.

Judge denies injunction by Nationwide Biweekly Administration against district attorneys

March 20th, 2015 at 7:56am

This is a very good article about consumer protection with respect to financial services solicitation, which you can read in its entirety in Courthouse News Service.

Loan Payment Administration and its corporate parent Nationwide Biweekly Administration sued district attorneys in Monterey and Marin counties in October 2014 after a Monterey deputy district attorney said their solicitation letters violated state law. The latter company has a program called the  “Interest Minimizer,” which in their mailed solicitations claims to save customers tens of thousands of dollars in interest over the life of a loan.

Monterey County Deputy District Attorney John Hubanks, one of the defendants,  said that some customers don’t realize those letters are coming from a third party. He also said that the letters from Nationwide Biweekly Administration do not disclose that it charges a fee for its Interest Minimizer program and that Nationwide employees are trained to “obscure the existence or amount of fees during phone calls.” (per Courthouse News Service).

The plaintiffs asked U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh for a preliminary injunction against the DAs, saying their free speech rights were violated and that “use of lenders’ name in truthful, non-misleading offers to potential customers does not violate any valid state law.”

Judge Koh, in her ruling, disagreed and denied the motion and wrote  “Nationwide has not shown that the public interest weighs in favor of granting an injunction.”  She found, among other things, that Nationwide did not show a likelihood of success on the merits of its First Amendment claim, and that “an injunction would prohibit local officials from enforcing statutes designed to protect consumers from the risk of fraud.”

 

Three Jara family members plead guilty to Bakersfield mortgage fraud

March 17th, 2015 at 5:23pm

Bakersfield residents Eliseo Jara Jr., 35, and his brother, Sergio Jara, 33, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud in a $5.6 million mortgage fraud case. Sergio Jara’s wife, Melissa Jara, 34, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in the same case, according to the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.

According to prosecutors, from 2007 to 2010, the Jara brothers, who owned Jara Brothers Investments, conspired with other persons to use straw buyers to purchase residential properties in Bakersfield they had developed with Pershing Partners LLC. Straw buyers were paid to purchase the properties from the two firms and they were funded by submitting false documentation to the lenders. Melissa Jara admitted she had submitted fraudulent loan documents to a lender on behalf of a straw buyer in order to finance a property she owned in an LLC.

All three defendants have agreed to financial restitution and relinquishing six properties as part of their sentences, which have yet to be set.

This case is the product of a joint investigation by the Internal Revenue Service‑Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kirk E. Sherriff, Henry Z. Carbajal III, and Megan A. S. Richards are prosecuting the case.

Four of the Jara’s co-defendants who have already pleaded guilty are Antonio Perez-Marcial (46 months in prison); Arlene Mojardin (awaiting sentencing); Candace Gonzales (awaiting sentencing); and  Ricardo Salinas (awaiting sentencing).

Read the original article in KERO 23ABC News.

Former bank president pleads guilty in short sale fraud case

March 17th, 2015 at 4:42pm

The following is a press release from SIGTARP:

WASHINGTON, DC - Christy Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), and Pamela C. Marsh, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, today announced that Michael “Sean” Davis, 43, of Crestview, Fla., pleaded guilty on March 13, 2015, to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and mail fraud; conspiracy to commit money laundering; making false statements to a federally insured institution; and fraudulently benefitting from a loan by a federally insured institution.

Between January 2006 and January 2011, while the president of Premier Community Bank of the Emerald Coast, Davis devised a scheme to defraud Premier Community Bank, Bank of America, and Beach Community Bank. As a part of the scheme, Davis solicited a straw buyer to submit false documents to purchase real properties via short sales from Bank of America. At Davis’ direction, the straw buyer then sold the properties the same day to third-party buyers. Davis authorized and approved loans from Premier Community Bank to these third-party buyers for the purchase of two of these properties from Davis’ straw buyer. As a result of these loans, Davis received approximately $297,408 through his company, MSD Investments. Through this scheme, Davis discharged approximately $743,425 in debt he owed to Bank of America for mortgage loans issued to Davis personally.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 28, 2015, before Chief United States District Judge M. Casey Rodgers at the United States Courthouse in Pensacola, Fla.

The case was investigated by Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation with assistance from SIGTARP, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General, and the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office as part of the Northwest Florida Financial Crimes Task Force.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tiffany H. Eggers.

This prosecution was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which was established to wage an aggressive and coordinated effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. SIGTARP is a member of the task force and co-chairs the Rescue Fraud Working Group. To learn more about the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

Man pleads guilty in flipping scheme

March 13th, 2015 at 8:27am

The Office of U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner has announced that Anatoliy Azarov, 33, of Sacramento, has pleaded guilty to mail fraud in regard to a mortgage fraud scheme involving 24 residential properties.

Azarov and a co-conspirator, Vadim Vilchitsa, 32,  had a business beginning in 2007 that solicited funds from investors to buy, renovate and flip residential properties. According to court documents the men convinced the investors to purchase the properties at inflated prices; they used the overage as working capital.

Prosecutors say that they helped the investors purchase properties through Yevgeniy Zazhitskiy, 39, a licensed real estate broker who worked as a loan officer.

Both Vadim Vilchitsa and Yevgeniy Zazhitskiy have already pleaded guilty in this case and have received sentences of 15 and 20 months in prison, respectively.

Read the original article in the Central Valley Business Times.

Westminster Attorney charged with others in $44 million loan modification scheme

March 13th, 2015 at 7:47am

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has filed criminal charges against three men, including a disbarred attorney, according to a press release.

Stephen Lester Siringoringo ran the Siringoringo Law Firm in Garden Grove, but the firm had branch offices in Rancho Cucamonga, Upland and Glendale. He and Joshua Michael Cobb have been charged with 24 felony counts of money laundering and 23 felony counts of grand theft, to which they have entered pleas of not guilty. A third man, Alfred O. Clausen, may have left the country.

The bail for both Siringoringo and Cobb is set at $17.8 million and they remain in custody.

The California State Bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel has indicated that over 796 complaints have been filed by homeowners who said they were charged upfront (advance) fees of $3,500 to $8,490 for loan modification services. Although they were promised their loan modification would be handled by a licensed attorney, the criminal complaint alleges this was not the case.

The taking of advance fees has been illegal since October 2009.

Read the original article in the Press Enterprise.  Click here to read the documents published online about Stephen Siringoringo.

Former Bakersfield real estate agent pleads guilty in mortgage fraud case

March 12th, 2015 at 6:56am

Arlene Jeanette Mojardin, 32, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud. Mojardin was a real estate agent (license revoked) who admitted that her participation caused lenders to lose almost $3.7 million in the conspiracy.

Mojardin (formerly Arlene Jeanette Jara) and eight other people were charged in 2012 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California. The allegations were that they used straw buyers to purchase properties developed by Jara Brothers Investments and Pershing Partners LLC by submitting falsified loan applications to the lenders.

Read the original article in Bakersfield Now.

Four found guilty in Sacramento-area mortgage fraud

March 12th, 2015 at 6:39am

A federal jury has convicted Nadia Kuzmenko, 35, of Loomis, Peter Kuzmenko, 36, Edward Shevtsov, 51, and Aaron New, 39,  all of Sacramento, of multiple counts of mail and wire fraud for their roles in a mortgage fraud scheme that cost financial institutions approximately $16 million.

Kuzmenko, Shevtsov and New were also found guilty of money laundering associated with the scheme. Kuzmenko was also found guilty of witness tampering. They will be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez on May 26.

According to evidence presented at the trial by prosecutors from the office of U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, Nadia Kuzmenko, a real estate agent, created falsified loan applications on behalf of  straw buyers during the period of 2006-2007. She and her co-defendants were able to obtain loans of more than $26 million for over 30 properties in the Sacramento area.

“The defendants … were important players in a network of fraudsters responsible for millions of dollars in losses associated with dozens of inflated property sales using multiple straw buyers,” says Mr. Wagner.

Co-defendants Vera Kuzmenko and Rachel Siders are still awaiting trial.

Read the original article in the Central Valley Business Times.

Operator of large-scale mortgage relief fraud scam gets 24 year prison sentence

March 5th, 2015 at 3:42pm

The following is a press release from the California Attorney General’s Office:

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California Benjamin B. Wagner today announced that Alan Tikal, the principal operator of a large-scale mortgage fraud scheme, was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

“Alan Tikal’s actions were illegal and will not be tolerated in California.  He and his partners defrauded hundreds of hard-working Californians who were fighting to keep their homes during our state’s foreclosure crisis,” Attorney General Harris said. “This predatory scheme robbed families of their life savings and in many cases, their homes. I thank our California Mortgage Fraud Strike Force and the U.S. Department of Justice for their work to bring these individuals to justice.”

“The financial crisis that hit our communities so hard made it very difficult for a lot of people to make ends meet,“ said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “Alan Tikal cynically took advantage of the desperation those people felt for his own profit, stealing payments meant to preserve family homes. Although we cannot undo the harm Tikal inflicted, today’s sentence provides a measure of justice.”

In September 2014, Alan David Tikal, 46, was convicted of 11 counts of mail fraud and one count of money laundering by United States District Judge Troy L. Nunley. The case was jointly prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California and the California Attorney General’s Office.

Between January 7, 2010 and August 20, 2013, Tikal operated a business under the name KATN, which targeted vulnerable and non-English speaking homeowners looking for mortgage assistance in the wake of the financial meltdown. According to evidence presented at trial, Tikal and his associates promised these homeowners that their outstanding mortgage debt would be reduced by 75%.  Tikal falsely claimed that he was a registered private banker with access to an enormous line of credit and was able to pay off homeowners’ debt in full. In exchange for various fees and payments, the homeowners existing mortgages would be satisfied and replaced with new loans to Tikal at 25% of the original loan obligation.

There were no instances in which the homeowner’s mortgage was paid, forgiven, or extinguished. Instead Tikal pocketed the victim’s money and spent it on chartered airline travel, a $5,000 suit, new cars, and other extravagant living expenses. Tikal and his associates convinced more than 1,000 homeowners in California and other states to participate in this fraudulent scam. Homeowners collectively paid more than $5,800,000 in fees and monthly payments to Tikal and his associates. The results were catastrophic for many families, the scam drained the victims’ bank accounts and ultimately led to the loss of their homes.

In February, co-defendant Ray Kornfeld was sentenced to 5 years for his role in the scheme and ordered to pay over $3 million in restitution to the victims. Co-defendant Tamara Tikal previously entered a guilty plea and will be sentenced on April 23, 2015.

Tikal’s arrest arose from an investigation by Special Inspector General for the Trouble Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) and Attorney General Harris’ Mortgage Fraud Strike Force with assistance from the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office and Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

The Mortgage Fraud Strike Force was formed in May 2011 to comprehensively investigate and prosecute misconduct in the mortgage industry.  The Attorney General’s efforts include securing approximately $20 billion for California in the National Mortgage Settlement and sponsoring the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, a package of laws instituting permanent mortgage-related reforms.

© Copyright 2007-2015 Monique Bryher

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The information and notices contained on The California Real Estate Fraud Report are intended to summarize recent developments in real estate fraud, mortgage fraud, short sale fraud, REO fraud, appraisal fraud, loan modification scams, loan modification fraud and other real estate related crimes occurring in Los Angeles and California. The posts on this site are presented as general research and information and are expressly not intended, and should not be regarded, as legal advice. Much of the information on this site concerns allegations made in civil lawsuits and in criminal indictments. All persons are presumed innocent until convicted of a crime. Readers who have particular questions about real estate fraud, mortgage fraud and appraisal fraud matters or who believe they require legal counsel should seek the advice of an attorney.

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