California Real Estate Fraud Report

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Archive for the 'Rent Skimming' Category

Roseville Renter Credited with Stopping Craigslist Rent Fraud

June 5th, 2014 at 7:14am

A prospective renter who met a woman claiming to have a home for rent on Craigslist is credited with stopping a rent fraud scheme.

After one of the prospective renters became suspicious, she drove by the home and discovered that not only was it for sale but that the property owners had not authorized anybody to rent it. The prospective renter contacted Roseville police, who arrested 23-year-old Krissi Peede, charging her with fraud and other crimes.

Read the original article in News10.Net.

Imposter Rental Scams Spread to Zillow

May 3rd, 2013 at 1:54pm

Before you read this article about consumers being ripped-off by phony real estate agents, phony landlords and phony property management companies, know that I complained to both the California Association of Realtors (CAR) and the National Association of Realtors  (NAR) about listings being stolen 18 months ago and they did absolutely nothing.

Back then, I reported a real estate agent on the east coast (I am located in California) who had stolen my listing and posted it on his website, along with the listings of other Realtors®, in order to increase his SEO (search engine optimization). When I contacted him, he told me he could do what he wanted and that nobody would stop him. See the first/above paragraph to learn what NAR and CAR did about it.

Now rental scams are starting to appear on Zillow, victimizing both consumers and honest Realtors®. The scam is to take an agent’s rental listing, re-post it on Zillow for a lower fee and change the suffix of the address, e.g., “Drive” not appears as “Terrace.” They use the legitimate Realtor’s name and create an email address similar to the agents in order to communicate with their consumer-prey.

Savvy consumers who are looking for a rental know that Craig’s List has been used for at least several years by con artists who find out a home is vacant, change the locks on the property, post an ad on Craig’s List, then “show” the property to multiple prospective tenants. The con artist will then take rent deposits from more than one renter, all of whom expect to get keys to the property but show up to find either someone else living there or that the scammer has disappeared into thin air.

According to an article just posted in Inman News on May 2, after Inman brought the Zillow case to the attention of the National Association of Realtors, the group’s general counsel, Laurie Janik, called it “the most sophisticated listing scam that she’d heard of.”

In my opinion, it’s not at all sophisticated; in fact, this rental scheme is relatively simple. It’s just that NAR isn’t paying attention to fraud.

One man is taking upon himself to do his job, which is to protect the integrity of listings. Malcolm Waring, the chairman of the Pocono Mountains Association of Realtors’ MLS (PMAR), said he was reviewing his option to bar bar Zillow from posting his MLS’s rental listings. The Zillow rental listing that was cloned belonged to a Realtor® who is a member of PMAR. According to Waring, upon threat of losing rental listings to both Zillow and its subsidiary HotPads, Zillow removed the fake listing. Waring said “I’ve been assured that they’re going to beef up fraud prevention.” But, if this happens again (and it will), “it’s going to be the last time.”

I’ve never met Malcolm Waring, but I like him already.

Laurie Janik of NAR said she has informed NAR’s legal department “so that they also are aware of the latest tactics.” Note that this means NAR wants their staff to be “aware” but they have not stated they intend to do anything affirmative to stop this, and other listing-stealing, so that both consumers and Realtors are protected.

If you’re a Realtor® or a consumer who wants NAR to do something about this, please send an email to Laurie Janik @ ljanik@realtors.org. Her phone number is 312-329-8270.

Read the original article in Inman News, which did the public a genuine service by publishing this information.

Van Nuys Man Charged with Rental Fraud of Foreclosed Homes – Using the Bible

May 3rd, 2013 at 11:04am

Victims of rental scams will be relieved to know that the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office is on the prowl for the criminal predators who steal from renters.

Van Nuys resident Bob Frierson, 42, is going to court to face six counts of forgery, six counts of recording a false document and residential burglary in connection with scamming renters in Victorville, Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana.

According to Senior Investigator Ed Nyberg, Frierson posed as the landlord for vacant homes and signed “rental agreements” with prospective renters, collected the deposits and monthly rents until the banks foreclosed on the properties. The renters would then be surprised when they were presented with eviction notices by the banks. The property owners, usually investors who were not able to evict the renters in time, often lost their homes to foreclosure. Others resorted to filing bankruptcies.

Bob Frierson was arrested after being investigated by the San Bernardino District Attorney Investigators Real Estate Fraud Prosecution Unit. He will be prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Lance Cantos.

Read the original article in the Victorville Daily Press.

** Update on this post from the Press Enterprise **

Senior Investigator Ed Nyberg has revealed that the way Bob Frierson found his “rentals” was to drive around North Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville looking for vacant homes in foreclosure. He then forged grant deeds and presented them to the renters as “proof” that he lawfully owned the properties and could rent them. The twist, according to Nyberg, is that on seven of the fraudulent grant deeds he saw verses from the Bible inserted.

Said Nyberg: “I’ve never seen anything like that. This guy is just a con artist. I think he was using (the verses) as a lure.”

Upland Man Arrested for Forging Notary Seal, Signature

April 27th, 2012 at 9:51am

A complaint filed by a Notary Public stating that her signature and seal had been forged on a grant deed (notary fraud) has resulted in the arrest of an Upland man
Eric Lamonte Smith, 38, has been charged with real estate fraud, identity theft, forgery, and preparing fraudulent credit applications and arraigned in San Bernardino Superior Court.

Smith has pleaded notguilty to the charges.

Prosecutors are alleging that Smith was part of a real estate fraud ring since 2006. The ring and its members allegedly delayed the foreclosure of properties by filing falsified grant deeds; then they would rent out the properties to tenants unaware of the scam (rent skimming). In some instances, the suspects would also obtain fraudulent home equity lines of credit by falsifying credit applications.

Read the original article in the San Bernardino Sun.

Martinez Man Charged for Rent Skimming in Contra Costa County

February 29th, 2012 at 9:36am

A man has been arrested for rent skimming (rental fraud, real estate fraud) for allegedly renting out foreclosed homes in Walnut Creek, Antioch, Brentwood and Hercules.

Alfonso Salazar, 62, faces charges of burglary, grand theft and perjury for renting out the vacant homes under the guise of his employer National Alliance of Homeowners for Justice. Investigators have not yet determined whether the employer was aware of or participated in the alleged scheme.

Banks often take months to list a property once it has foreclosed, creating the opportunity for fraudsters to change the locks and collect deposits from unsuspecting renters on forums such as Craig’s List (Craigslist fraud), as Salazar is alleged to have done.

Read the original article in the Martinez Patch.

Large-Scale Rent Skimming Scheme Alleged in San Diego

January 12th, 2012 at 10:33am

Realtors® in the community of Chula Vista are speaking up about a firm that they allege is illegally renting out listed homes and making a lot of money doing so.

The firm, called “Prudent Constituents Association,” is allegedly filing fradulent quitclaims in San Diego County, then taking possession of homes that legitimately belong to others. Realtor® Steve Lemack says “They’ll take off the lockboxes that are on [the homes], take all the signs down, they change the locks and they put up their own signs.” He says further that PCA is charging renters $2,000 per month and that they control 30 properties or more.

The Prudent Constituents Association is purportedly a non-profit formed by Derrick and Diane Brown after their own home was foreclosed. Diane Brown, who also goes by the name Harmony stated All these homes where people are being evicted by the lenders are wrongful evictions.” 

Neither the Chula Vista Police Department nor the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, both of which were contacted by real estate agents, would acknowledge they are investigating PCA.

A note to prospective renters: I could not find any registration of the PCA as a non-profit, nor do they have a prominent (if any) website. This should be a hint that you might be dealing with an organization that is not legitimate and that you should investigate them further.

Read the original article in San Diego’s 10News.

© Copyright 2007-2014 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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