There have been a number of articles in the media in the past week about three people who have been arrested for running a conspiracy to defraud banks and investors by engaging in a unique form of short sale fraud. Unfortunately, while the articles have shown the photos of the defendants and some of their alleged ill-gotten gains, they do not adequately describe the wrongdoing of which the defendants are accused.
So . . . here it is, my own abstract, prepared especially for law enforcement who are working real estate fraud cases outside the jurisdiction of this one and would like to catch up on current crime patterns.
Ahmed Tariq Asghari, 32, of Sherman Oaks; Kenneth Moore, 49, of Tustin; and Atiqullah Nabizada, 29, of Coto de Caza have been indicted for running a short sale fraud operation that may have defrauded the victims of as much as $10 million. According to the FBI Press Release, Nabizada and Moore were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and Asghari, has been charged with attempted bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and causing an act to be done. If convicted, the men could each face lengthy prison sentences.
The schemes were carried out in Los Angeles County and to date involved at least six residential properties.
Search warrants were executed last week at locations in Orange County and Los Angeles County.
Here is how the crimes were committed, according to the search warrants:
Nabizada told a witness (referred to in the search warrants as the “Cooperator”) that he had an inside contact at Bank of America who, in exchange for a bribe, would approve short sales for well-below fair-market value. The Cooperator then told Asghari of the scheme and offered to bring him into it if Asghari would find investors or even straw buyers who would pay fair-market value for the properties.
Nabizada apparently had no such insider willing to approve short sales for below-market value at Bank of America; instead, he merely produced forged documents himself. These documents would be presented to escrow, which in many cases, was handled by Jackie Burchell, who worked at Point Break Escrow (PBE) in Costa Mesa. The title company would wire the funds, issue and record the new title policy and escrow would be closed. The property, which had clear title, would then be resold to an unsuspecting buyer. In the meantime, Bank of America would return the wired funds, stating it had not approved the short sale. The buyer would be left holding title to a property for which the original liens by Bank of America and perhaps a subordinate lien holder were still in place and in force.
According to the search warrant, Burchell has acknowledged being aware that she was working on behalf of Nabizada and Asghari by “concealing documents and producing and/or knowingly transmitting fraudulent documents,” that she concealed payments to both men and produced fraudulent HUD-1 statements.
This complicated case was investigated jointly by the FBI, the Secret Service, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). André Birotte Jr, the United States Attorney in Los Angeles, announced that his office will be prosecuting the defendants; the lead prosecutor is Ariel Neuman.
Tariq Asghari’s office, where one of the search warrants was executed, is located at 18850 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, California.
On January 9, 2013, Jackie Burchell was arrested and charged in connection with another real estate fraud scheme, according to an FBI Press Release. She was barred from any employment in an escrow agency as a result of an administrative enforcment action taken by the California Department of Business Oversight (formerly California Department of Corporations) in November 2012.