May 10th, 2008 at 12:35pm
The real estate developer at the center of an extensive mortgage fraud scheme that has played out in Southern California newspapers pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and loan fraud, running a continuing financial crimes enterprise, money laundering, obstruction of justice and three counts of bank fraud. Charles Elliott Fitzgerald, 47, who had been convicted of fraud for previous crimes, could face up to life in prison when he is sentenced August 18.
Working with Beverly Hills agent Joseph Aram Babajian, real estate broker to such stars as Warren Beatty, Ryan Seacrest and Harrison Ford; his partner Kyle Grasso; several appraisers and mortgage brokers, Fitzgerald and his business partner, Mark Alan Abrams, bought homes in pricey neighborhoods such as Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades. The appraisers over-valued the properties, which were then resold at the inflated amounts to phony buyers who purchased the properties with loans, prosecutors said.
Fitzgerald and Abrams recruited the borrowers, repeatedly lied about the homes’ value and ran escrow companies to promote the scheme, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Matz.
According to Assistant U.A. Attorney Jeremy Matz, over a three year period, Lehman Brothers Bank funded 80 loans totaling $137 million—$50 million of which was the inflated values. Inflating the loans led to millions of dollars in commissions and other fees that was shared among the conspirators.
Lehman Brothers eventually sued Fitzgerald, but not before resisting attempts by real estate professionals, such as Christian Stevens of Keller Williams in Beverly Hills and real estate appraiser Gary Crabtree of Bakersfield, to inform them of suspicious transactions.
Seven other people have already pleaded guilty in the ongoing case; charges are pending against three other individuals.
Somebody is going to make a movie out of this . . .
Read the Full Article in The Silicon Valley Mercury News
May 10th, 2008 at 12:06pm
On Thursday, the California State Senate voted to allow counties to increase filing fees for property purchase documents in order to better fund fraud investigation units. The bill was written by Sen. Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks) and supported locally by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley. Its provisions expand the types of documents subject to the $2 recording fee to include a substitution of trustee, a notice of trustee sale and a notice of rescission of declaration of default. The recording fee is also subject to an increase to $3 by a county’s board of supervisors.
According to Senator Cox,
“Much of the problems with foreclosures and mortgage fraud that we see today is the result of criminal activity. The real estate fraud units that this bill funds help combat that fraud.”
The bill still must be passed by the State Assembly before becoming law.
Read the Full Article in the Los Angeles Times
May 9th, 2008 at 7:48pm
Four Los Angeles County residents were arrested after an investigation concluded they stole the identity of a Simi Valley man in order to take out a fraudulent real estate loan.
The investigation stemmed from a report made by James Brown, who said that Mark DeLaToba, 30, and Laura Menchaca, 25, both of Sylmar; Daxon Dorsch, 38, of Woodland Hills; and Forrest Reed, 75, of Granada Hills forged loan documents and took out a $370,300 loan in his name. The lender, Real Estate Direct, which is based in the San Fernando Valley, is not even a California licensed real estate lender.
Read the Full Article in The Ventura County Star.
May 9th, 2008 at 10:22am
A past felony conviction and prison term didn’t stop Andrew Whitaker, 52, and ten of his relatives and associates from committing predatory lending crimes against San Bernardino County residents in Rancho Cucamonga to the tune more than $2 million in fraudulent mortgages.
San Bernardino Deputy District Attorney Larry Roberts said the victims were homeowners trying to stay out of foreclosure who thought they were obtaining refinancing. Instead, their homes were sold to straw buyers after whatever equity that existed was sucked out by the Whitakers through inflated commissions and escrow fees.
Whitaker’s daughter Heather Nicole Whitaker served as president of two companies — Nationwide Discount Home Loans and Preferred Metropolitan Escrow Inc. were run by Whitaker’s daughter, Heather Nicole Whitaker, who served as the president. His ex-wife wife Majgan (Mona) Cox, of ReMax/Allegiance Realty was the licensed real estate broker. Current wife Karren Whitaker was the licensed real estate appraiser doing business as Pacific Coast Realty Appraisals Inc.
The Whitakers’ scheme, for which they obtained mortgages of more than $2 million, operated by providing non-existent down payments and untrue information about the buyer’s credit and income on the loan applications. Once the loans were funded, they were quickly sold to Countrywide, which was unaware of the deception.
Read the Full Article in The Press Enterprise
May 9th, 2008 at 10:08am
Pardeep Singh, 30, is missing, but as soon as he is found, he will face the seven charges of grand theft filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. Another 29 allegations have been forwarded to the D.A. from the sheriff’s San Dimas station.
Singh impressed friends – some of whom became his victims – as a sharp dresser who wore expensive clothes and watches and drove fancy cars.
Kenneth Yandoli of Glendale was impressed enough to give Singh $100,000 to invest in Singh’s financial business East Wind Financial LLC; now he could lose his home as a result of trusting the slick stranger he met at a gas station.
As authorities search for Singh, accused of using a Craigslist posting to fleece potential renters, other people have come forward. They say they lost money in real estate investments, including on eBay. The alleged fraud could eventually add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Singh, who has been missing since April 30, found his victims on Craigslist and eBay. He used the latter to auction timeshares in properties such as Tahiti Village in Las Vegas, Nevada. The owners of the timeshare said they had never heard of Singh, who apparently placed his auctions by cutting and pasting text from prior auctions on eBay.
Read the Full Article in The Pasadena Star News
May 9th, 2008 at 9:51am
A Sacramento man was sentened to 15 months in federal prison for bilking lenders and two homeowners.
According to the U.S. Attorney, Sennett Swift, 26, admitted to bank fraud and money laundering, which he did with the purpose of earning commissions. Swift, however, was not licensed . . .
Read the Full Article in The Central Valley Business Times.
May 9th, 2008 at 9:42am
Pushing real estate fraud to new levels, Reginald Robinson, 31, was arraigned on charges of murder, solicitation of murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm in connection with the murder 42-year-old Kashmir Billon, his business partner in Richmond, California (Contra Costa County).
Although San Ramon police initially thought that Robinson had hired someone to kill Billon, who was found dead near his bullet-riddled car, they now believe it was Robinson who shot him.
Read the Full Article