California Real Estate Fraud Report

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Archive for the 'Title Fraud' Category

Detroit homes at risk from tax liens – homeowners fight back

April 8th, 2015 at 9:07am

Although this story originates in Detroit, it is instructive as to this kind of potential real estate actions against homes occurring in every state.

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner says “It’s theft,” in describing how operators set up corporate names and find homes that are behind on tax payments. They pay some of the past-due property taxes, then foreclose and put the homes up for auction. So far, at least 50 homes have had their ownership status put into jeopardy by these actions.

Meisner further said that this is a repeat of a scam that occurred in Wayne County 10 years ago. “Our system of property rights in this country is a very basic underpinning of our society,” he said. “Senior citizens, people with disabilities, some of the more vulnerable are really, really at risk.”

One military veteran managed to save his home that Consolidated Brokers’ Pool was trying to take title to through the court system.  He was fortunate in that Oakland County Clerk and Register of Deeds Lisa Brown and other County officials persuaded Oakland County Circuit Judge Nanci Grant to rule against Consolidated. Lisa Brown was quoted as saying “They are stealing homes. They’re committing a fraud on the court.” (Photo: Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press) And “Consolidated Brokers’ Pool LLC accrued NO legal interest in the subject property.”

Consolidated Brokers’ Pool is owned by Sherman Pegross, a 45-year old Detroit man who has  served time in federal prison and has a criminal record of arrests and convictions for theft, credit card fraud and other offenses.

Other homeowners are fighting the liens placed against their homes, many by Consolidated or other entities operated by Pegross. Yet to date, nobody has been charged with a crime.

For his part, Pegross says, “The treasurer likes to make me out to be the monster simply because he doesn’t want me to do what I’m doing because sometimes I help myself, sometimes I help the (homeowner). But when I help myself or that person, it means he didn’t sell it at auction. He’s mad about that.”

In the meantime, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette published an opinion last year that anyone paying taxes on a property he or she doesn’t own is simply making a gift and earns no rights to the property.

Read the original article in the Detroit Free Press.

Modesto resident Xue Heu pleads guilty to elaborate distressed real estate fraud

March 31st, 2015 at 3:27pm

According to an article in the Modesto Bee, Xue Heu, 38, who conned over $1.26 million from investors in California and Texas, pleaded guilty on Monday to two counts of wire fraud.

Heu and Thomas Dickey Price, 72,  posed as representatives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who were selling foreclosed homes through their companies Liquid Assets & Land Investments Inc. and Capital Land Investments LLC. The homes had already been sold but the pair used forged deeds (title fraud) and other fraudulent documents in order to fool their victims.

Heu used the alias Michael Chan and Price used the names Albert Martin and Matt Taylor.

A third conspirator, Carla Lee Miller, signed a plea arrangement earlier this month.

Xue Heu will be sentenced in June in Fresno. If he pays restitution to his victims of $403,469 he could receive less than the 20 year sentence for which he is eligible.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the ace team at the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office real estate fraud unit.

Read a copy of the plea agreement Xue Heu made with the Office of U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner.

Man pleads guilty in title fraud, property flipping case

March 26th, 2015 at 7:43am

According to U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, Daniel Deaibes has pleaded guilty for his role in a scheme to flip houses by first stealing the title to homes in Southern California.

In his plea agreement, Deaibes admitted that between September 2012 and November 2014 he and two alleged co-conspirators fraudulently sold or attempted to sell at least 10 homes for more than $2.3 million. Deaibes admitted that he and the alleged co-conspirators, one of whom owned several real estate businesses, would record fraudulent grant deeds at the county recorders’ offices and then immediately attempt to sell the properties to unsuspecting buyers.

The scheme unraveled when Fannie Mae, the owner of one of the properties, discovered the fraud and attempted to regain title. In response, Deaibes and the others created a fake “Withdrawal of Lis Pendens” in an effort to proceed with the fraudulent sale. Even after Fannie Mae won a court judgment, the co-conspirators recorded a fraudulent “Satisfaction of Judgment”.

Read the full article in FBI.gov.

Ranch Cucamonga Pair Charged for Selling Home They Didn’t Own

January 8th, 2015 at 8:48am

According to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, Emma Adel, 45, and Mazen Fazah, 39,  are facing 22 felong charges for selling a home they fraudulently acquired to an unsuspecting buyer.

The defendants, who own Upland-based business, Smart Edge Auto, forged both the name of the owner (title fraud) and a notary public (notary fraud) on a vacant house, transferred the property into a trust, then re-sold the home to the victims, according to Senior Investigator John Vega.

 

Owner of Head Financial Service Get 35 YEARS in Prison

September 12th, 2014 at 11:15am

Charles Head, 40, the former CEO of Head Financial Services, Creative Loans and other brokerage and financial companies, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller to 35 years in prison for operating foreclosure rescue scams.

Instead of helping homeowners who came to him for help in avoiding foreclosure of their homes, Head substituted straw buyers on the victims’ property titles without their knowledge (title fraud). straw buyers then applied for mortgages and sucked out whatever equity existed. The victims lost their homes and suffered damage to their credit ratings.

According to prosecutors, Charles Head‘s foreclosure fraud began in Los Angeles and Orange Counties and then expanded to a nationwide operation. In all, he and his co-conspirators obtained over $90 million in loans, caused losses of over $50 million and stole the title to more than 300 homes. He was caught only because one of his victims in Sacramento contacted an FBI economic crimes agent on a complaint line.

Read the original article in the Sacramento Bee.

Oakland and Macomb Counties Launch Super Index to Detect Real Estate Fraud

May 16th, 2014 at 7:54am

The pro-active counties of Oakland and Macomb are the first and only counties in the nation to add a Super Index to their property record searches, making it easier to both prevent and detect real estate fraud.

The Super Index is powered by Google and Xerox and contains up to 12 million pages of optically-scanned property records going back as far as 1964. It allows the user to search records using a homeowner’s name, an address or by name of the notary. The latter is important because some fraudulent deeds have been filed with the cooperation of either a dishonest notary (notary fraud) or one who was duped by the person filing the deed (title fraud).

Some homes are stolen through County Clerks’ offices by people who pay a portion of back taxes on a property with delinquent taxes. The person then places a lien on the property, files a phony deed and then either rents it out or sells it, all without the knowledge of the lawful owner.

Read the original article in the Daily Tribune.

Attorneys and Others Arrested in Fresno Adverse Possession Scheme

January 30th, 2014 at 9:30am

According to a press release by the California Department of Justice, five individuals were arrested in mid-January and charged with allegedly running a statewide housing scheme by using adverse possession laws to fraudulently take control of at least 23 homes in nine counties,  Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Madera, Merced, Santa Barbara, San Mateo, Sonoma and Tulare.The

Sandra Elaine Barton, 30, Christopher Spencer Barton, 31, Daniel Paul Vedenoff, 29, Sheldon W. Feigel, 50, and Craig Merrill Mortensen, 60, all of Fresno, were arrested and charged with 288 felony counts including perjury, filing false court records and preparing false evidence. A sixth defendant, Cambria Lisa Barton, 21, turned herself in to authorities last week and entered a general time waiver.

Mortensen and Feigel are attorneys. According to the filing by the AG’s office, the non-attorneys were alleged to have identified abandoned homes and then filed for adverse possession with the courts in order to obtain title, after which the property would be sold or rented.

Under California law (Code of Civil Procedure 325), an individual can claim adverse possession of real property if he or she has occupied or claimed it continuously for at least five years and paid property taxes for that period of time, among other requirements.

The scheme unraveled when Nancy Zelepsky, the actual owner of a home in Santa Barbara County, contacted a title company to see if there were any liens against her property before applying for a home equity loan in 2010. The title company informed her that Sandra Barton was listed as the deed holder that same year and that the documents had been filed by Craig Mortensen.

Zelepsky received assistance from the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County and her property was restored to her after the court found that Sandra Barton’s claim was fraudulent. The court then contacted the California State Bar regarding Craig Mortensen and the California Attorney General’s office opened its own investigation in June 2011.

If found guilty, the defendants all face long prison sentences.

The Attorney General’s Office was assisted in this case by the State Bar of California, Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, Kern County Sheriff’s Department, Clovis Police Department and Fresno Police Department.

Following his arrest, Sheldon Feigel’s attorney held a press conference denying the charges filed against his client. He has since filed a lawsuit against the State of California seeking $1 million in damages for unreasonable search and seizure, being denied access to his attorney and for emotional distress inflicted on his children.

Read a copy of the felony complaint by clicking here.

Hard Money Lender Extradited from Panama for Embezelling, Ponzi Scheme

December 20th, 2013 at 10:12am

Thomas Franklin Tarbutton, 54, A fugitive hard money lender, was plucked by Panamanian authorities as he was trying to enter Costa Rica and extradited to Orange County.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office had issued a $2 million for Tarbutton’s arrest after charges were filed against him for allegedly keeping money from his investors (title fraud). The investors had allegedly been provided forged property documents by Tarbutton and his company Villa Capital filed with the Orange County Clerk-Recorder Department showing that the investors were lien holders on property deeds, which they were not. Instead, authorities believe he kept their money for his personal use.

After being investigated by both the FBI and the OCDA, Thomas Tarbutton was charged with 29 felony counts, including grand theft and forgery. He was further charged with sentencing enhancements and allegations for loss over $100,000, property loss over $3.2 million, and aggravated white collar crime.

Read the original article in the OC Weekly.

 

Long Beach Man Sentenced for QuitClaim Fraud

December 17th, 2013 at 10:39am

A Long Beach man whose business model was to determine whether residential properties were vacant so that he could record false quitclaim deeds has been sentenced to four years.

Blair Christopher Hanloh, 50, who owned and operated Blair Hanloh Trustee of Diversified Management Trust (Diversified Management), was convicted in October 2013 of five felony counts of recording false and forged instruments.

Hanloh scouted properties from Orange County to Dana Point and if they were vacant or in foreclosure, he recorded the quitclaims to fraudulently transfer the ownership of the properties from the legal owners to Diversified Management (title fraud). He then changed the locks and rented the properties to unknowing victims-tenants.

“I would like to congratulate Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and his department on a job well done. Our office has been working closely with the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit to find ways to prevent these crimes from happening in the future,” said Orange County Clerk-Recorder Hugh Nguyen.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Pete Pierce of the Major Fraud Unit prosecuted this case.

Read the original article in the Orange County Breeze.

 

Redding Man Sentenced for Mortgage Fraud

November 15th, 2013 at 9:38am

Brandon Hanly, 33, of Redding has been sentenced to four years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb.

Evidence presented at his trial indicated that Hanly and others defrauded lenders from September 2005 to April 2006 by submitting inflating appraisals (appraisal fraud) and title reports with phony liens (title fraud) in order obtain loans. The title documents were in the name of TPG Investments, Inc., a shell company.

Judge Shubb rejected Hanly’s contention that he was a victim, found that Hanly had committed perjury during his trial and thus increased his prison sentence to “send a message to people who would commit this crime and who would lie about it when they come to court.”

 in federal court in Sacramento and a San Diego County loan processing firm has agreed to a civil settlement in separate mortgage fraud cases.

Read the original article in the Sacramento Bee.

© 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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