California Real Estate Fraud Report

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Archive for the 'Real Estate Crimes' Category

Two plead guilty to short sale fraud in Virginia

May 28th, 2015 at 9:06am

The following is a press release from the FBI:

WASHINGTON—An Ashburn, Virginia resident was convicted today by a federal jury on 13 charges related to mortgage fraud, passing fictitious financial instruments, and tax fraud, the Department of Justice announced.

Charise Stone, 46, was indicted on April 15, 2014. According to court records and evidence at trial, Stone targeted distressed homeowners from 2007 to 2010 who owed more on their mortgage loan than the market value of the home with false promises of financial recovery. Stone acquired distressed homeowners’ properties in her own name or under entities she controlled, made false representations to mortgage lenders in order to induce approval of the short sales, and then re-sold the properties—often the same day or the next—to new buyers at a price above the short sale amount, in violation of agreements made with mortgage lenders.

Jose Marinay http://www.justice.gov/usao-edva/pr/head-annandale-settlement-company-pleads-guilty-over-2-million-short-sale-mortgage owned a settlement company that closed every short sale transaction for Stone. Marinay pleaded guilty to wire-fraud conspiracy on May 27, 2014. At his and Stone’s direction, fraudulent HUD-1 settlement statements were prepared to facilitate the transactions. Marinay destroyed some of the incriminating documents after closings. Financial institutions suffered losses of at least $2.2 million from the scheme. Stone profited more than $700,000 from these transactions but failed to file individual income tax returns. She also sent fictitious bonds to the IRS in an attempt to pay off her tax liability, and she sent fake international promissory notes to creditors purporting to satisfy her credit card debt as well as her mortgage loan.

Stone faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each of the wire fraud and wire-fraud conspiracy charges, 30 years in prison for the charges of false statements to a bank, 25 years in prison for the fictitious obligation charges, three years for the charge of corruptly impeding the internal revenue laws, and one year for each count of willful failure to file a tax return at her Aug. 14 sentencing.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente, of the Eastern District of Virginia, Assistant Director in Charge Andrew G. McCabe of the FBI’S Washington Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Kelly, of the Internal Revenue Service -Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Washington, D.C. Field Office, made the announcement after the verdict was accepted by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and IRS-C I. Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye and Assistant Chief Todd Ellinwood of the Tax Division are prosecuting the case.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Courthttp://www.vaed.uscourts.gov for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACERhttps://pcl.uscourts.gov by searching for Case No. 1:14-CR-127.

Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website http://www.justice.gov/tax/.

New program by Solano County District Attorney to make stealing homes more difficult

May 27th, 2015 at 8:41am

The Solano County District Attorney’s Office has developed a new programr that seeks to prevent theft of a person’s home by fraudsters (title fraud).

The Real Estate Fraud Notification will electronically scan documents in the Assessor/Recorder’s Office that would transfer title in any manner, then mail a letter to the person paying the property taxes with a copy of the recorded document to alert them. If that person is unaware of the transaction resulting in the recorded document, they should contact the District Attorney’s Office.

Read the original article in The Reporter.

Tulare County DA investigator honored

May 27th, 2015 at 8:37am

The following is a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California:

FRESNO — U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced Dwayne Johnson, an investigator with the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office, as the 2014 winner of the Eastern District of California Law Enforcement Award for Outstanding Investigator in the Fresno Division.

The award is one of four presented annually to a law enforcement agency and an officer in each of the Sacramento and Fresno divisions of the Eastern District of California to recognize outstanding collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement in addressing public safety issues in the region.

Johnson was recognized for his work with the San Joaquin Valley Mortgage Fraud Task Force. He worked closely with the Fresno U.S. Attorney’s Office and its partner federal law enforcement agencies in leading several mortgage-fraud-related investigations and prosecutions that have targeted large-scale fraud schemes, yielded guilty pleas and vindicated the rights of countless victims.

“I am proud of the well-deserved recognition given to Investigator Johnson for showing instinct and professionalism to help bring justice to the numerous victims of this scam,” said Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward.

In May 2013, Johnson was the lead investigator in a fraudulent foreclosure rescue business case. On the basis of a single complaint, Johnson commenced a long-term investigation that ultimately uncovered a fraud scheme that victimized dozens of homeowners in numerous counties, many of whom eventually lost their houses in foreclosure. Johnson prepared and undertook the execution of several search warrants, reviewed thousands of pages of documents, conducted dozens of witness interviews, and planned and executed various undercover operations. Juan Ramon Curiel and Santiago Palacios-Hernandez pleaded guilty in December 2014 and admitted they had caused more than $2.5 million in losses to more than 50 vulnerable homeowners and financial institutions.

“The financial crisis hit our communities particularly hard and over the past six years our office has taken a leading role in prosecuting those who engaged in mortgage fraud to enrich themselves while harming our economy and driving down the value of our neighborhoods,” said Wagner said. “Our success was only possible because of dedicated, hard-working law enforcement officers like Investigator Johnson. My office, the Eastern District, and Tulare County all owe a great debt to Investigator Johnson and his many skilled and dedicated colleagues in local law enforcement who do the heavy lifting in protecting our communities.”

Johnson is nine-year veteran of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigations. He has enjoyed a distinguished career in law enforcement having served with the Fresno Police Department and the FBI. He began his law-enforcement career as a correctional officer in the U.S. Army.

Man who pleaded guilty to real estate fraud charged with same offense

May 22nd, 2015 at 8:54am

A Modesto  who pleaded guilty to stealing over $1 million from investors in California and Texas has been arrested and charged with two felony counts of grand theft.

In the newest case, Xue Heu, 37, is accused of using the same tactics to scam another victim out of $6,000.

Xue Heu defies the court order and continues to defraud victims,” wrote  Glenn Gulley, an investigator with the district attorney’s real estate fraud unit in a document filed in Stanislaus Superior Court.

Read the original article in the Modesto Bee.

Fighter Chuck Liddell suing title, escrow companies in failed Vista del Hombre development

May 22nd, 2015 at 7:55am

Former fighting champion Chuck Liddell  is suing Cuesta Title Company, Stewart Title of California and Stewart Title Guaranty for the losses he suffered in the failed $24 million golf course development known as Vista del Hombre.

Liddell’s friend Kelly Gearhart, the developer of the project and a former Atascadero Citizen of the Year, is awaiting sentencing on federal fraud charges June 1. Because he filed bankruptcy, 500 of the investors are suing the title companies, claiming they were part of Gearhart’s Ponzi scheme.

Defense counsel for Cuesta Title is claiming that it knew nothing about the fraud or Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Gearhart and that it did its job as an escrow company.

Read the original article in The Tribune.

Note: there are many earlier articles about Kelly Gearhart, which you can find by searching this blog.

 

Six straw buyers convicted in mortgage fraud scheme

May 8th, 2015 at 9:44am

Six people who served as straw buyers in the Sacramento area have been convicted of wire fraud.

Three defendants: Irina Markevich, 30, of Rio Linda; Anatoliy Markevich, 35, of Sacramento; and Marina Pukhkan, 53, of Rio Linda were each convicted of two counts of wire fraud, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California. The three remaining defendants: Daniil Markevich, 38, and his wife, Svetlana Markevich, 38, both of Escondido, and Alex Markevich, 40, of Rio Linda were each convicted of one count of wire fraud.

All six defendants acted as straw buyers, obtaining home loans by submitting fraudulent loan applications and related financial documents. After obtaining the loans, they made the mortgage payments for a few months, then allowed the properties to go into foreclosure, causing losses to the lending institutions of more than $700,000.

Read the original article in the Sacramento Bee.

CFPB and Maryland Attorney General suing banks and others for RESPA anti-kickback violations

May 1st, 2015 at 11:32am

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Maryland Attorney General have filed complaints accusing six individuals of taking illegal mortgage kickback scheme with banks such as Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. They are charged of receiving cash and marketing services in exchange for giving mortgage loan referrals to the banks.

The CFPB named the individuals as follows: Jay Zukerberg and Brandon Glickstein, the owner and marketing director respectively of defunct Genuine TitleGary Klopp, Adam Mandelberg,  and Angela Pobletts (all loan officers); and William Peterson, the president of a mortgage brokerage. Genuine Title is accused of paying the loan officers by running the kickbacks through limited liability companies.

“Paying kickbacks for mortgage referrals is illegal, and it has been illegal for decades,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a press release. “Secret and unlawful payments keep consumers in the dark and put honest businesses at a disadvantage, and the consumer bureau will continue to take action against them.”

Click on the Real Estate Settlement Practices Act (RESPA) to learn about its anti-kickback provisions.

Read the original article in National Mortgage News.

Monique Bryher speaks at ACFE chapter meeting

May 1st, 2015 at 10:21am

This past week, I was invited by the L.A. Chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners to be one of the key speakers at their monthly meeting.

My topic was short sale fraud and real estate fraud in general and the impact it has on neighborhoods, the community at-large, jobs and public services. I was told that the attendees (CPAs, auditors, fraud investigators and prosecutors) enjoyed this look at the dark side of real estate, which was indicated by the many thoughtful questions they asked.

Walnut Creek man sentenced for $21 million real estate investment fraud

April 23rd, 2015 at 3:14pm

Sixty-year-old Benny Chetcuti Jr. has been sentenced to more than four years in prison for operating a real estate investment fraud scheme. He must also pay over $21.8 million in restitution for the losses he caused.

Chetcuti convinced investors to loan money to his firm, Chetcuti & Associates, telling them their investments were backed by properties. Although the firm’s business was to buy, renovate and re-sell homes (“flipping”), he did so by forging deeds purportedly written by lenders and title company officers.

Read the original article in the Contra Costa Times and the office of U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.

Modesto man pleads guilty to Guatemalan real estate investment scam

April 22nd, 2015 at 7:26am

Modesto resident Kenneth Manuel Martin, 66, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

According to the offices of United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, Martin convinced individuals to invest money with him, telling them their monies would be used to fund mortgage loans to home buyers in Guatemala. Their investments were to be secured by grant deeds secured by Guatemalan real estate. The inducement was high interest rates of return.

This case was investigated jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorneys Henry Z. Carbajal III and Grant B. Rabenn are prosecuting the case.

Read the original article in the Imperial Valley News.

© 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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