California Real Estate Fraud Report

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Archive for the 'Real Estate Crimes' Category

Lafayette Real Estate Agent Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud, Money Laundering

July 25th, 2017 at 9:42am

Real estate agent Robert Jacobsen, 69, pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges related to a complex scheme in which he fraudulently obtained the title to homes (title fraud) and then resold them at market prices.

Federal prosecutors said that Jacobsen pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering by setting up “sham companies” and lawsuits to falsely make it appear that mortgage liens connected to two homes were invalidated.

“Jacobsen admitted that two homes that were the subjects of such lawsuits were in Danville, Calif., and San Francisco, Calif.  Jacobsen admitted that, after obtaining fraudulent judgments, he sold the Danville home for $540,000 and the San Francisco home for $1.2 million.  Jacobsen admitted that in both cases, his representations regarding the fraudulent court judgments had a natural tendency to influence the buyers to purchase the homes.”

Read the press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.

Clovis Man Charged with Operating a Ponzi Scheme

July 13th, 2017 at 7:41am

Clovis resident Seth Adam Depiano, 36, has been arrested Thursday and has been charged with mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

In court document, Deplane is accused of operating a $20 million Ponzi scheme by luring unsuspecting real estate investors into his businesses, including The Rental Group, U.S. Funding and Home Services LLC and Draymond Homes.

He promised the investors that their funds would be used to purchase homes that would either be renovated and resold or turned into rental properties.

In addition, Depiano is accused selling the North Roosevelt apartment building in Fresno that he didn’t owned to his investors. Another complex in Fresno, the “Winery Complex,” was sold as an apartment building but is actually condominium units that are individually owned.

The FBI investigation began in September 2015 after a notary filed a report with the Los Gatos Police Department, claiming her signature had been forged (notary fraud) on a grant deed document for the North Roosevelt complex.

Seth Depiano’s case is being heard before the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, the city in which he was arrested.

Read the original article in the Fresno Business Journal.

Los Osos Real Estate Broker is Target of Allegations of Fraud re: Septic Credits

July 7th, 2017 at 11:22am

Septic credits” occur when an old building is demolished in Los Osos and the owner can use the historical credit to re-build. The septic credits can be bought, sold and transferred from one parcel to another.

In Los Osos, when building isn’t impossible, it’s at least complicated.

Due to septic contamination of groundwater since 1988, developers, real estate brokers and their agents have used creativity to make projects happen. But because of the complexities, things can get complicated, leading to contract disputes and lawsuits when projects fair to complete.

The recent partnership between Los Osos real estate broker Jeff Edwards, of J.H. Edwards Company, and Fresno-based developer the Los Osos Investment Group, appears to have ended poorly. There are lawsuits betweens the former partners and accusations of “fraudulent conduct, negligence, and misrepresentation” made against Edwards by the California Bureau of Real Estate (BRE).

This is a very complex story, but one well-worth reading.

Read the original article in Full Times SLO.

Woman Pleads No Contest in Craigslist Rent Fraud

June 23rd, 2017 at 8:29am

A woman pleaded no contest to a felony grand theft charge for taking deposits for rental property she did not own.

The Salinas Police Department had received multiple complaints from people saying that Veronica Lopez was posing as the owner of a Salinas property which was advertised in Craigslist. Lopez took a $1,000 deposit from one prospective renter, who later became suspicious and verified that she was not the owner.

Veronica Lopez was prosecuted by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office.  Deputy District Attorney John Hubanks from the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit and District Attorney Investigator Alicia Cox handled the case.

Read the original article in The Salinas Californian.

 

REFAT Has Emerged As a Hope for the Victims of Real Estate Crime in Ventura County

May 5th, 2017 at 9:31am

Ventura County, CA, USA – May 4, 2017 – Real Estate Fraud Advisory Team [REFAT] has made an appeal to the residents of Ventura County, California to be aware of the real estate related scams and frauds. REFAT takes a request to the general public and has asked them to report anyone who does fraud related to the matters of property, particularly the fraudulent realtors of the county. REFAT’s program outreaches to escrow companies, lenders, real estate agents, title companies & other such pros from the industry.

“We are waging a war against fraudulent realtors and we want a scam-free, transparent and reasonable property in the Ventura County,” said Jim Keith, the Chair and Founder of REFAT. “We aim to prevent, detect and report the real estate frauds happening in our county to ensure a scam-free realty,” he added. Several individuals and groups have already been arrested due to the actions taken against them by Ventura County district attorney fraud unit. REFAT wants the county as well as the state to be free from scams and rip-offs. The worst bit is that the victims are mostly senior citizens and people with modest English-speaking abilities.

Criminals, felons and scammers such as Patrick Iturra, Rod Scott Hormell, Michael McDevitt, Joe Garcia and several others were arrested and sentenced up to 10 years due to the efforts of Ventura County district attorney fraud unit and REFAT. These fraudsters have ripped off the residents for millions of dollars. In a nutshell, REFAT has come up with a promise to prevent, detect and report real estate fraud in the County as they also provides tools & resources that help to effectively spot the warning signals of real estate scam so that the fraud can be avoided beforehand.

To report a crime, a real estate fraud or a fraudulent realtor, please visit www.refat.org

Media Contact
Company Name: Real Estate Fraud Advisory Team [REFAT]
Contact Person: Jim Keith
Email: Justin@vent2wire.com
Phone: (805) 432 5843
Country: United States
Website: www.REFAT.org

 

San Mateo County Gets Aggressive in Chasing Real Estate Fraud, Mortgage Fraud

May 5th, 2017 at 9:24am

According to the San Mateo Daily Journal, the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office is going to be aggressively investigating people attempting to take out fraudulent liens on a property (title fraud), trying to con the elderly out of their homes (elder financial abuse, elder financial fraud) or anyone falsifying real estate documents.

With a new $3 document recording fee and property values rising, the County Board of Supervisors set up a Real Estate Fraud Prosecution Trust Fund that will be used to investigate criminals.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe and his office have received almost 300 complaints of real estate fraud since 2014.

Upland Woman Convicted in Real Estate Fraud Case

May 5th, 2017 at 8:53am

Upland resident Barbara Rae Bratton, 58 was convicted of 6 counts of real estate fraud on April 14.

Bratton, who lost her home to foreclosure, was investigated by the Ontario Police Department on suspicion of filing two false grant deeds with the San Bernardino County Recorder’s Office on a house in the 900 block of Locust Street in Ontario.

After the foreclosure, the home was legally purchased to new buyers, according to District Attorney Sr. Investigation John Vega.
Read the original article in the Highland Community News.

Three From Long Island Arrested In $1 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme

May 5th, 2017 at 8:45am

Nine people were indicted, and three arrested for an alleged mortgage fraud scheme that included some short sale fraud purchases. The scheme spanned two boroughs of New York City and resulted in more than $1 million in fraudulent gains.

The persons arrested were Janelle Defreitas, 37, of Uniondale; Lester Wayne Mackey, 63, of Wyandanch; and Darren Downes, 36, of Baldwin. Also named in the indictment were Raymond McKayle, 53, of East Flatbush; Jaipaul Persaud, 54, of Fresh Meadows; Roxanne Harmon, 51, of Jamaica; June Whyte, 54, of Ozone Park; Rickley Gregoire, 33, of Brooklyn; and Paula Blackwood-Sambury, 50, of Cambria Heights.

“Our investigation uncovered a brazen and elaborate scheme to defraud mortgage lenders and steal over $1 million,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “We have zero tolerance for anyone who tries to cheat the system — and we won’t hesitate to bring them to justice.”

Ironically, Roxanne Harmon is an investigator for the New York City Department of Investigation. One of the properties involved was apparently her own.

Read the original article, which includes the charges and details of the alleged mortgage fraud scheme, in The Patch.

 

Monterey County District Attorney’s Office Seeking Victims in Real Estate Fraud Case

April 21st, 2017 at 8:40am

The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office has indicted two men it is accusing of charging people upfront fees for non-existent loans in Salinas.

The allegations are that Jose Tomas-Silva and Mark Gallegos marketed real estate brokerage services that required the prospective clients to pay advance fees for residential properties that were not for sale

Read the original article in The Californian.

An Important Supplemental Disciplinary Advisory from the California Bureau of Real Estate

March 24th, 2017 at 4:54am

The following is from an email alert from the California Bureau of Real Estate:

    Licensee Alert                 Issued March 2017

Supplemental Disciplinary Advisory to Real Estate Salespersons Who Mislead Consumers into Falsely Believing that They are Brokers — and a Concurrent Caution to the “[Ir]responsible” Brokers Who Permit or Support Such Practices

                       By Wayne S. Bell, California Real Estate Commissioner and

Mark Tutera, Special Investigator

 

In September 2015, the California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE) issued an advisory which was captioned “Disciplinary Warning to Real Estate Salespersons Who Act, Conduct Themselves, and/or Advertise as ‘Independent’ Real Estate Professionals — and a Simultaneous Caution to Brokers Who Allow or Support Such Practices”.

(http://www.calbre.ca.gov/files/pdf/adv/Independent%20Real%20Estate%20Professionals.pdf)

Licensees of CalBRE are well advised to review that prior advisory since we continue to see some of the same bad practices identified in that writing.

This discipline “advisory” is being issued as a supplement to that prior warning since CalBRE has taken notice of the use by some real estate salespersons of names and designations (and attendant Internet and marketing materials) that suggest to the public – and mislead consumers into falsely believing – that such salespersons are real estate brokers.

A scenario that we have repeatedly seen is the use by a salesperson (who for this illustration we will identify as John Doe) of a fictitious business name that would lead members of the public to incorrectly believe that the business is operated and managed by a real estate broker. In this example, salesperson Doe conducts business using the name Doe Real Estate.  Doe advertises using that business name, and the advertisements are connected to, or accompanied by, a webpage and other materials that extol the virtues of Doe Real Estate.  The public would not think that Doe is a salesperson who must be supervised by another, and would most certainly conclude that Doe Real Estate is a real estate broker or brokerage.  And the above practices are unlawful.

In addition to the above, many salespersons continue to brand and identify themselves as “independent” real estate practitioners, and they practice and advertise as such.  Unless those salespersons are operating as “teams”, in full compliance with the California laws and rules pertaining to teams (e.g., the disclosure of I.D numbers and the name of responsible broker, and the surname of at least one of the licensee members of the team along with the use of the terms “team”, “group” or associates” with regard to the team), that is unlawful as well.

Further, and depending on the specific language employed with respect to the name(s) and designation(s) used by the real estate salespersons, there might be a violation of the law relative to the use of fictitious names.  Please see the prior guidance given by CalBRE on the proper use and licensing of fictitious names.

As was also stated in the prior warning, under California law, with its two-tiered licensing system, real estate salespersons cannot provide – or advertise that they can provide – real estate services independently of their responsible brokers.

Likewise, salespersons must be associated or affiliated with, and be reasonably supervised by (which supervision includes broker review of the advertising used by the broker’s salesperson or salespersons pursuant to Commissioner’s Regulation 2725(e)) a responsible broker in order to engage in real estate licensed activities in California.  The law provides no exceptions.

CalBRE will take appropriate disciplinary action (including the imposition of significant fines, and  – where appropriate – the revocation of licensure) against real estate salespersons who engage in the unlawful activities discussed above, and against real estate brokers who permit their salespersons to engage in such activities.

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© Copyright 2007-2017 Monique Bryher

Legal Disclaimer.

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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