October 27th, 2011 at 9:24am
Despite efforts by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) to stop loan modification fraud – and even prosecutions by the California Office of the Attorney General to do the same – such activity is still occurring, especially in certain communities.
A recent article in California Watch highlights two such cases.
In the first, George Bolanos, who allegedly operates under multiple names and is unlicensed in real estate, was issued a cease-and-refrain letter by the DRE. Bolanos was advertising loan modification services to Spanish language media and requiring upfront fees, which are illegal in California.
Another recipient of a DRE cease-and-refrain letter is the firm JC Ruiz Capital Group, which also goes by the name Maxima Home Loans. The letter dates to 2009 but the owner is still operating his loan business. JC Ruiz drew the DRE’s attention also for charging upfront fees for loan modifications, which he runs through his other business, called First America Financial Consulting. The Better Business Bureau gives JC Ruiz Capital an “F” rating on its website due to the following reasons, which I copied from their information:
∙ BBB concerns with the industry in which this business operates
∙ Length of time business has been operating25 complaint(s) filed
∙ Failure to respond to 13 complaint(s) filed against business
∙ 2 complaint(s) filed against business that were not resolved
∙ 14 serious complaint(s) filed against businessOverall complaint
history with BBB
∙ Government action(s) against business
September 9th, 2011 at 8:58am
Ju Young Chung, 36, was arrested for allegedly running a real estate fraud ring in which homes which had been paid off had the equity skimmed.
Chung and the other six suspects who were arrested are being accused of renting out the homes and applying for loans using the stolen identities of the true owners (loan fraud, mortgage fraud). The earliest cases date back to 2009 and the total amount of the fraud is estimated at $5.9 million.
Except for the home in Calabasas, the remaining properties were located in the San Gabriel Valley, including Arcadia, Diamond Bar, Hacienda Heights, Monterey Park, San Gabriel, Temple City, Walnut and West Covina. Most of the victims were of Chinese descent and several of the accused are either Chinese or Korean nationals.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI investigated the case. If you are a victim or know of other potential victims, please contact the L.A. Sheriff’s Real Estate Fraud team at 562-946-7217.
Read the original article in the Los Angeles Daily News.
August 26th, 2011 at 9:01am
A business in the Stockton area run by a woman who lost her real estate license, yet continued to act as a licensed agent, is now the focus of an investigation by the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office.
The California Department of Real Estate (DRE) revoked the license of Magdalena Salas, aka Maggie Salas, in 2004. In 2010, the DRE ordered her to “desist and refrain. By then Salas was running several businesses, including Legacy Home Loans & Real Estate, Peace and Freedom Legal Services and Divinity Real Estate. District Attorney investigators say that Salas advertised free loan modification services on Spanish-language television, radio and billboards (affinity fraud, ethnic fraud). But when clients came in, she allegedly extracted large sums of advance fees to stop their foreclosures and help them obtain loan modifications (loan modification fraud, loan modification scams).
It has been illegal since 2009 in California to charge advance fees to perform loan modification services.
Read the original article in the Stockton Record.
January 7th, 2011 at 9:35am
Miguel Romero was a busy man, simultaneously wearing the hats of a real estate agent, insurance dealer, income tax preparer and credit repair expert.
But many of his fellow Latino clients would say he drove them to ruin (affinity fraud) and a staggering number of his home sales have fallen into foreclosure. Of the 122 homes Miguel Romero has sold since 2004, at least 75 have fallen into foreclosure. Twenty-one of the additional 63 homes his network of real estate agents sold have also entered foreclosure status.
Other clients of Romero, who attended his weekly seminars on how to grow wealth by using the equity in their homes to invest in other properties, have lost not only those properties but their principle residences, which had equity and which they were able to afford before they met Romero.
Now the long arm of the law has finally caught up with Miguel Romero: he is being sentenced today to four years in prison for fraud, theft and conspiracy to commit a crime. With his unique business plan that consisted of overstating income on mortgage loan applications (mortgage fraud, loan fraud, real estate fraud) to buy homes they could truly not afford, there was no way his clients would not be victimized.
Read the full article in the North County Times.
November 10th, 2010 at 6:50pm
An unlicensed real estate agent has been charged by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office with seven felony counts of grand theft and one misdemeanor count of operating a real estate business without having a license.
Arthur Gonzales Diaz, 56, of Anaheim, is cited in the OC Weekly for having scammed a number of Latino victims in various real estate fraud schemes. The article states that Diaz’ license was suspended in 1998, but this writer can find no record of Diaz on the California Department of Real Estate’s (DRE) list of licensed or previously licensed agents.
What is most interesting about this article is that Diaz has been accused of running his illegal operations out of a RE/MAX office and a Century 21 office, both located in Orange County. His corporations were called Trans-World International Securities, Inc., International Marketing Network Corporation, and Banco International Realty, Inc.
The crimes Diaz is accused of run the entire gamut of real estate fraud, including mortgage fraud, short sale fraud and loan modification fraud / loan modification scams.
If you believe you are a victim of Arthur Gonzalez Diaz, contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Ron Frazier at 714-347-8691 at the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. The OCDA’s prosecutor is Senior Deputy District Attorney Peter Pierce of the Major Frauds Unit / Real Estate and Mortgage Fraud Team.
Read the full article in the OC Weekly.
October 22nd, 2010 at 10:18am
Miguel Romero was once a prosperous man in the Vista area, working simultaneously as a real estate agent, insurance dealer, income tax preparer and credit repair specialist. But between 2004 and 2008, he apparently conspired with mortgage brokers to defraud both lenders and his Latino clients by convincing the latter to take out home loans, which contained overstated income statements. Almost all of the homes were eventually foreclosed.
Romero is now expected to receive a four year prison sentence this coming January after he pleaded guilty to multipe counts of fraud, theft and conspiracy according to court documents.
Not only did Miguel Romero and his co-conspirators collect $1.3 million in commissions, as part of their crimes, they took in $500,000 from some of their victims by promising to help them with their foreclosure problems.
Read the full article in the North County Times.
October 8th, 2010 at 1:39pm
Two con artists who targeted Spanish-speaking and Southeast Asian homeowners in foreclosure are being arraigned today for felony fraud and theft at their Fresno-area business.
Angeline Lisa Lizarrago, 68, of Fremont and Michael Douglas Young, 67, of Los Gatos, the respective owner and general manager of Avemos Financial Group, are accused by California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown’s office of charging upfront fees to distressed homeowners in return from stopping lenders from foreclosing on their homes. The waiting room of Avemos was adorned with figurines of the Virgin Mary, apparently used as a prop to convince the homeowners of Lizarrago’s and Young’s sincerity.
Among the victims of Lizarrago and Young were an 89-year-old man and his wife, who lost $25,000 to the pair after they promised to find them a home in Fremont but failed to do so and did not return their money.
wanted to move away from Stockton, that she owned 51 properties, many of which had been foreclosed upon, and she could find them a home in Fremont. She asked for an up-front fee, which she promised to return with interest once the purchase was made. In a series of payments, the couple gave Lizarrago $25,000. She never found them a home, nor returned their money.
The case was investigated and prosecuted jointly by the Attorney General and the Alameda County District Attorney. They were assisted in the investigation by the California Department of Real Estate and the Fremont Police Department.
Read the press release by the California Office of the Attorney General.
October 3rd, 2010 at 6:04pm
Juan Rangel, 46, the owner of Financial Plus Investments, has been indicted by a federal grand jury of targeting Latinos through Spanish language television, radio and print media to advertise his business that allegedly ripped off the victims for more than $20 million.
Rangel was convicted last year of bribing a bank manager at Bank of America (Dony Gonzalez), a crime for which he could face 95 years in federal prison once he is sentenced. The new charges could add up to 232 years in prison if he is convicted. Rangel is accused of using his investors’ monies to purchase a Lamborghini, a limousine, cocaine and payments his $3 million home in a Ponzi scheme. With some of his victims, Rangel is alleged to have taken title to their homes in foreclosures, removing whatever equity existed and reselling them to straw buyers using fraudulent loan documents.
Dear Feds: start prosecuting the straw buyers.
Read the full article in the Los Angeles Times and the Downey Patriot.
August 13th, 2010 at 10:56am
In a case that allegedly includes victims in four states as well as overseas, two men have been charged with stealing $200 million in a real estate fraud that targeted Orthodox Jews.
Eliyahu Weinstein of New Jersey and Vladimir Siforov of New York represented themselves as real estate investors. Their angle was to seek out victims in various Orthodox Jewish communities whose customs and social structure were familiar to Weinstein and Siforov. New Jersey, New York, Florida and California were the U.S. states in which the victims lived. Instead of investing their money, Weinstein used it to purchase art, jewelry and Judaica. According to the prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark, Weinstein’s collection includes manuscripts and antique Judaica items valued at $6.2 million; a jewelry and clock collection that cost $7.6 million; and jewelry and watches worth $6.2 million.
Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal.
April 30th, 2010 at 9:16am
Milton Retana, 45, a subject of several previous articles in the California Real Estate Fraud Report, is facing 27 years in prison. That’s what federal prosecutors are probably going to ask a judge to impose on Retana, who ripped off more than 2,000 investors out of more than $62 million in a real estate fraud crime spree.
Retana targeted fellow Latinos in a case that could be described as ethnic fraud or affinity fraud, which occurs when the perpetrator seeks victims of a similar demographic group. He found his victims by advertising in Spanish-language publications and by holding seminars. In the end, Retana did little more than operate a Ponzi scheme, paying early investors using money he raised from later ones.
According to Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, Retana operated a Ponzi scheme using Best Diamond Funding, his own firm, to promise investors unbelievable returns of up to 84 percent per year. Many took out second mortgages so that they could buy in, according to prosecutors.
Retana’s wife owned a religious bookstore called Libreria del Exito Mundo, which is located next door to Best Diamond Funding. When postal inspectors and FBI agents raided Best Diamond Funding and Libreria del Exito Mundo, they found almost $4 million in cash in the two buildings.
*** Note: after this writing, Milton Retana was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Read the full article in the Daily Breeze and Businessweek.