June 19th, 2012 at 1:45pm
SACRAMENTO — Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the Assembly Public Safety Committee passed an important piece of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights that aims to protect California homeowners from fraud and scams.
Senate Bill 1474 (Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley) would allow Attorney General Harris to convene a special grand jury to investigate and indict the perpetrators of financial crimes involving victims in more than one county, as well as crimes conducted by a single defendant or multiple defendants who worked together. The bill passed unanimously with bipartisan support.
Under current law, fraud in which the victims are located across the state require separate grand juries and charges must be filed in every county where the defendant committed a crime. This legislation would provide for the option of a special grand jury that can produce indictments for financial crimes beyond the scope of single-county grand juries.
“Scammers continue to prey on vulnerable Californians who simply want to stay in their homes,” Attorney General Harris said. “This legislation will create a more cohesive legal process to prosecute those who prey on Californians across county lines.”
“The Attorney General is currently engaged in the investigation of significant crimes,” Senator Hancock said. “Unfortunately, county-by-county grand juries do not work well in dealing with large-scale wrongdoing in multiple jurisdictions. With this bill, the Attorney General can investigate multijurisdictional crimes – it will provide protection when Californians need it the most.”
The Mortgage Fraud Strike Force, established by Attorney General Harris, investigates and prosecutes crimes related to mortgages, foreclosures and real estate. In recent weeks, the Strike Force has secured the conviction of perpetrators of scams in the Fresno and Sacramento areas.
SB 1474 will be heard next in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
For more information on the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, go to www.oag.ca.gov.
June 15th, 2012 at 9:53am
Hamlet Sardariani, a 45-year old Sylmar man, has pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and tax evasion charges in U.S. District Court in front of United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips. Sardariani admitted that he conspired with others to procure four loans with a value over over $5 million by using houses he did not own as collateral. In addition, he confessed to forging documents and falsifying notary stamps (notary fraud).
Hamlet Sardariani’s brother, Henrik Sardariani, 44, of Glendale, pleaded guilty last January; Wanda Tenney, 66, of South Los Angeles, a former escrow officer, pleaded guilty on December 5; Christopher J. Woods, 53, of Beverly Hills, pleaded guilty on November 8. All three are awaiting their sentences.
This case was investigated by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation (CID).
Read the original article in the Imperial Valley News.
June 15th, 2012 at 7:50am
Kern County District Attorney Lisa Harris has announced the formation of a special task force between her office and local Realtors® to combat real estate fraud and mortgage fraud.
DA Harris’ group is patterned after the same group formed in 2006 by the Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors. That group, the Ventura County Real Estate Fraud Advisory Team (REFAT), connected investigators from the Ventura County District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit and local real estate agents, , brokers, lenders, escrow and title companies. Representatives meet regularly to share information about suspicious activity in the local housing market. They also produce and disseminate educational materials and consumer alerts via a website: http://refat.org/.
The task force will be an invaluable tool to homeowners and consumers because Bakersfield is one of the country’s hot spots for mortgage fraud and real estate fraud. According to DA Lisa Harris, the most common real estate crime is still loan modification fraud, whereby crooks promise to help homeowners in distress avoid foreclosure in exchange for a fee. Advance fees have been illegal for this type of service since 2009 in California.
Read the original article in the Bakersfield Californian.
June 7th, 2012 at 10:31pm
Is more misleading of consumers part of the 50 state Attorney General agreement?
GMAC, which is in the throes of bankruptcy, apparently thinks the ink is not yet dried on its settlement with California’s Attorney General as well as the AGs for the 49 other states. Borrowers who are trying to refinance their homes under the terms of the U.S. Treasury Department’s HARP 2.0 program, which is designed to help lower the interest on mortgages where the borrower is either underwater or living on reduced income, are complaining about high-pressure sales tactics.
GMAC loan processors are alleged to be sweet-talking and luring consumers who simply call to inquire about refinancing with tales of how easy it is to qualify for a refinance under HARP 2.0. After being promised that answering a mere 12 questions will enable the loan processor to email the consumer several loan options, e.g, 15 year, 20 year, 30 year, the loan processor launches into high gear in order to close the sale. Borrowers who want to refinance to 20 year loans are subjected to merciless lobbying to flip them into the 30 year products and even told that if they have a HELOC, that they will certainly default if they don’t pay it down with the savings from 30 years loans. The borrowers are also pressured to make an immediate decision and told they are not permitted to take a day or two (or more) to think about the refinance because “federal laws” require the loan applications to be processed.
Does anybody at Treasury or the California Office of the Attorney General know that these sales tactics are occurring at Ally / GMAC and that consumers are still being misled and lied to?
May 31st, 2012 at 9:55pm
A real estate salesman who admitted lying about his income in order to build a mansion on land he had purchased (loan fraud, mortgage fraud), was sentenced to 18 months in prison for wire fraud and money laundering. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco.
In a novel plea for mercy, Abraham Valentino, a Tiburon resident who is originally from Iran, told the court he had already suffered due to the loss of his reputation, his pride (=ego) and his right to vote. He also claimed that he might not survive prison at his age (53).
Valentino’s attorney, Jay Weill, while conceding his client lied in order to obtain $5.6 million, nevertheless blamed Valentino’s account and mortgage broker for the fraud.
Abraham Valentino’s real estate license is still active with the California Department of Real Estate (DRE).
Read the original article in the Marin Independent Journal.
May 31st, 2012 at 9:29pm
Justin Batemon, 34, one of the defendants in a $15 million mortgage fraud case that included members of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club, was sentenced to three years in prison.
Bateman, a resident of Hayward, conned lenders by submitting loan documentation (loan fraud) that falsely claimed he owned a company and altered bank statements to show he earned more income that he did. He also referred some of his friends who were Hell’s Angels members to the loan officer, co-defendant Jacob Moynihan.
According to U.S. District Attorney Melinda Haag, Batemon pleaded guilty to all counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. But that didn’t stop Judge William Alsup from slapping him with an enhanced sentence for obstruction of justice after prosecutors discovered he had forged a letter with respect to drug tests that had been ordered by the court.
The FBI and the IRS Criminal Investigations division performed the investigation.
Justin Batemon was also ordered to pay restitution after he has served his prison sentence.
Read the original article in the Silicon Valley Mercury News.
May 30th, 2012 at 10:08am
A Sacramento area real estate agent who conspired with two men and a group of closely-related straw buyers to deceive lenders (loan fraud, mortgage fraud) has been convicted of 13 counts of mail fraud after a six-day trial.
Behrooz Badie, 53, the broker and former owner of Above and Beyond Realtors, represented four straw buyers in the purchase of 16 homes. The straw buyers were procured by Derek Davis and were his ex-wife Harriette Davis, his girlfriend Kristina Harvey, his friend William Emmons and a creditor named Alan Bolton. The straw buyers never intended to occupy the properties, although they so indicated on their loan applications, because the properties were ultimately to be purchased by Derek Davis.
The mortgage broker for 15 of the transactions was Dino Rosetti. In each instance, the financial portrait of the borrowers (the straw buyers) was presented by overstating their incomes and understating their liabilities (loan fraud, mortgage fraud).
The creative part of this mortgage fraud conspiracy is that Behrooz Badie convinced the listing agents for the properties in which his buyers’ offers had been accepted, to alter their listings and increase the price above market value. This was done so that a phony surplus was created for the benefit of Derek Davis. Addenda were prepared – but never disclosed or shown to the lenders or their appraisers – to indicate that the surplus funds were for repairs or property improvements.
Derek Davis and Dino Rosetti have both previously pleaded for their part in this conspiracy and the real estate licenses of Badie and Rosetti have been revoked. No word on whether the listing agents have been disciplined by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) or if any of the straw buyers have been charged. How these inflated home prices got approved by the appraisers is also worth exploring.
Read the original article in the Central Valley Business Times.
May 17th, 2012 at 11:05pm
Ronald Nelson, 76, and his wife Edith Nelson, 53, both of Pleasant Hill, are going to prison for a unique scam: the couple have pleaded guilty to defrauding banks out of $20 million in order to purchase residential care facilities using straw buyers. Both Nelsons entered guilty please to charges of bank fraud, money laundering and tax charges.
The Nelsons’ scheme involved paying/bribing the straw buyers from $5,000 to $10,000 to submit fraudulent loan applications (loan fraud, mortgage fraud) to purchase residential housing, which they converted to so-called residential care facilities. Edith Nelson was sentenced to three years and 1 month in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Lowell Jensen and Ronald Nelson received 2 years and 8 months. They were ordered to pay restitution of $5.2 million.
Co-conspirators Nelda Asuncion, co-owner of Realty World Pacific West, 2 1/2 years in prison, and Cristeta Lagarejos, owner of Legacy Financing, received an 18 month sentence.
Read the original article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
May 4th, 2012 at 9:56am
James McConville, once a successful developer, was sentenced to eight years and nine months in federal prison for money laundering and conspiracy to commitmail and wire fraud. While in business, McConville referred to himself as “the West Coast Donald Trump.”
McConville purchased over 300 properties using straw buyers, falsifying loan documents and charging excessive “marketing fees,” a fact he hid from lenders (loan fraud, mortgage fraud). All told, he is said to have collected $12 million in his enterprise, which involved stealing from his own business partners.
IRS investigator Mary Williams and prosecutors are concerned that McConville has not disclosed where he has hidden all his ill-gotten gains. They believe he has hidden the money in Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Sweden and Cyprus, as well as the small Caribbean island of Nevis. They also believe he laundered some of the money through his family.
Read the original article in ABC 7 News.
April 26th, 2012 at 6:00pm
A woman who operated a Bakersfield tax preparing firm has admitted to participating in preparing and filing a fraudulent tax return to the IRS on behalf of a client. Her poor judgment is costing her dearly, as she has just been sentenced to three years and one month in prison for mortgage fraud by Chief United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii.
Patricia Ann King, 57, owned The Tax Kings and as a tax preparer assisted taxpayers (who became co-defendants) in submitting false loan application documentation so that they could obtain loans from mortgage lenders (loan fraud, mortgage fraud). She also claimed to be a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) when in fact she was not.
King must also pay $530,300 in restitution to the lenders that were defrauded and $174,002 in restitution to the IRS.
The Patricia Ann King case was the result of a cooperative investigation by the FBI, the IRS-CID (Criminal Investigation Division) and a mortgage fraud task force based in Fresno assembled by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kirk E. Sherriff and Henry Z. Carbajal III were the prosecutors for the mortgage fraud case.
Read the original article in KERO 23.