February 29th, 2012 at 10:12am
Leonard Williams, 49, and Joshua Clymers, 25 have been indicted for mail fraud for using straw buyers to purchase homes at inflated values (appraisal fraud), which they then flipped.
Williams is an associate of Garret Griffith Gililland III. Gililland, the subject of a number of posts on the California Real Estate Fraud Report, pleaded guilty in May 2011 to defrauding lenders (mortgage fraud, loan fraud) out of millions of dollars.
Leonard Williams was a licensed real estate agent whose license was revoked by the California Department of Real Estate in January 2012. The indictment charges that once acquiring the properties, Williams and Clymers sent the fraudulent deeds of trust through the postal service, which is what generated the mail fraud counts. Diamond Hill Financial, Inc., one of Gililland’s former companies, handled the escrow proceeds (escrow fraud).
Two developers who were also charged in Gililland’s real estate fraud scheme, Tony Symmes and William Baker, entered pleas and Symmes has returned about $4 million to the lender-victims.
Read the original article in the Chico Enterprise Record.
February 29th, 2012 at 9:53am
John Terzakis, formerly the majority owner of Vesta Strategies LLC in San Jose, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering in connection with a $25 million Ponzi scheme that he orchestrated.
Vesta was a qualified intermediary that, if legitimate, would have helped investors avoid paying taxes on capital gains by holding the proceeds from their real estate sales for up to 180 days.
According to Melinda Haag, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, the investors’ money could not be returned because Terzakis, former Vesta CEO Robert Estupinian and former executive Peter Ye misappropriated the funds for their own use. Esupinian and Ye have already pleaded guilty and like Terzakis, will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge D. Lowell Jensen
Read the original article in the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
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.
February 29th, 2012 at 9:22am
Wiley Chandler, 47, a Lodi real estate investor who was indicted for bid rigging and mail fraud in a real estate fraud scheme, has pleaded guilty to conpiracy with a group of speculators, which had agreed not to bid against one another at public auctions of foreclosed homes.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento reports that four of Chandler’s indicted co-conspirators, are Andrew B. Katakis, president of California Equity Management; Donald M. Parker; Anthony Joachim; and W. Theodore Longley. Longley, an auctioneer, was charged with aiding an abetting.
Nine others have already pleaded guilty according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner.
The defendants allegedly ran their conspiracy by having one “investor” bid for the targeted foreclosed properties that were sold at San Joaquin County auctions. Afterward, they would hold a private auction and the property would be re-sold to the highest bidder in the group. The difference between the original and resale numbers would be counted as profit and divided among the participants.
Read the original article in the Modesto Bee.
February 24th, 2012 at 9:10am
John Zepeda, 60, who pleaded guilty in 2011 rent skimming, forgery, identity theft and conspiracy to commit grand theft, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay $6 million in restitution. His brother David Zepeda, 59, has been charged in a related case, along with Carlos M. Torres and Patricia Torres.
John Zepeda held seminars for people in foreclosure and convinced them to transfer title or quitclaim their properties to him so that he could save their homes from foreclosure. Sometimes he just forged the quitclaim deed (title fraud). He took money upfront for his so-called services (loan modification fraud, foreclosure fraud) and victimized people from Los Angeles to San Diego. After illegally acquiring the properties, Zepeda then rented them out (rent skimming) and used the proceeds to enjoy the finer things in life.
Read the original article in 10News.com.
February 24th, 2012 at 8:56am
This is “Affinity Fraud Week” at the California Real Estate Fraud Report. By that, I mean that in the past week, almost all of the news that I have reported has been where the alleged perpetrator(s) and victim(s) have belonged to the same ethnic group (ethnic fraud). Now on to this latest story of affinity fraud.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has announced that two have have been charged in connection with a real estate fraud scheme that targeted the Vietnamese-American community.
Loan Thituong Nguyen, 43, of Westminster, is a licensed real estate broker who operated Suncoast Mortgage and Suncoast Investment Realty. She and her alleged accomplice, Lynn Eichenberger, 42, of Chatsworth, have both been arrested and charged with 15 felony counts of grand theft, two felony counts of money laundering, and one felony count of conspiracy to commit grand theft with sentencing enhancements for property loss of more than $1.3 million, aggravated white collar crime over $500,000, and money laundering of more than $1 million.
Operating a book-end style scheme, Nguyen is alleged to have approached homeowners in foreclosure and promised to solve their problem in return for substantial amounts of cash (foreclosure fraud). She then made promises to investors to help them acquire foreclosed properties for a 50% upfront fee toward the purchase (real estate investment fraud). The monies she collected were then deposited into an account set up by Lynn Eichenberger.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas believes there are more victims than the 17 Vietnamese investors who claim to have been defrauded.
Read the original article in the Orange County Register.
February 23rd, 2012 at 5:04pm
A long-time Mira Mesa real estate agent, his wife and seven of their associates have been charged in a 12-page indictment alleging mortgage fraud in which lenders lost up to $15 million.
The charges facing Eric Elegado and his wife Charmagne Elegado include conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The defendants are collectively accused of falsifying more than 100 loan applications (loan fraud, mortgage fraud) between 2002 and 2007, most often targeting low-income Latinos (affinity fraud, ethnic fraud), according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Orabona. Orabona said that Charmagne Elegado had “defrauded her own parents” and called her “the most culpable person in this criminal enterprise.”
Charmagne Elegado, 47, was an account executive at New Century Mortgage during the period the mortgage fraud occurred. New Century Mortgage was the first of the subprime lenders to go bankrupty when the California real estate market reversed its steep growth and nearly crashed.
The following defendants worked for E Real Estate & Loans, Inc.: Theodore Cohen, 54, (Chief Financial Advisor); loan officers Minh Nguyen,28, of San Marcos; Alexander V. Garcia, 38, of San Diego; Roman Macabulos, 38, of San Diego; Ramin Lotfi, 36, of San Diego and Roderick Huerto, 34, of San Diego; and also Regidor Pacal, 51, of San Diego.
February 23rd, 2012 at 4:38pm
In one of the most unusual stories to cross my desk, a woman is accusing the City of San Diego and many of its employees of charging the public to use land that belongs to her family.
Merrilee Miller of Goleta says that her family has owned the land adjacent to Lake Murray for generations. Despite that, for 48 years, San Diego has been charging people access fees to walk the trails and mountains and further, that City employees have filed fraudulent deeds and other documents (title fraud) to hide the fact that the land is privately owned.
If what she alleges is true, this could be one of the largest real estate frauds ever committed by a municipal agency.
Read the letter Ms. Miller has written, along with the document she provide, to the La Mesa Patch.
February 23rd, 2012 at 4:29pm
A man already convicted twice for residential burglary in 1997 is now facing a life sentence under the California 3-strikes law.
Timothy Barnett, 49, is accused of approaching South Los Angeles homeowners in distress and offering to buy their homes at a steep discount and rent them back to him. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has filed 23 charges against him.
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, in California, “a person can be convicted of residential burglary for entering someone’s house with the intent to commit a felony, even if he or she enters with the homeowner’s permission. Burglary is one of the dozens of serious or violent crimes considered strikes under the law.”
Barnett’s prior burgary charges, for which he spent almost five years in prison, have to do with this form of non-violent burglary. He would appear on the victims’ doorsteps and then have them sign long documents. The victims took him at his word after he told them he was a Christian trying to help people (affinity fraud).
From the article, I’m gathering Barnett then flipped the homes to third parties who were the parties ultimately leasing back the homes. While his attorney, Amy Konstantelos, defends her client’s right to make a profit, the victims argue that this is not what he told them.
Jury selection is ongoing. This should be a very interesting case, one in which Barnett might go to prison under 3 strikes for being a serial white-collar offender.
February 23rd, 2012 at 4:12pm
A Century 21 real estate agent has pleaded guilty to felony bank fraud along with two accomplices in a mortgage fraud scheme that the U.S. Justice Department characterized as “Operation Stolen Dreams.”
The agent, Raul Rocha, Luis Ramos and Rosa Amelia Fernandez entered their guilty pleas in the nationwide mortgage fraud case that included 1,215 defendants and more than $2.3 billion in losses. The bad guys were caught after honest real estate agents went to the Ventura District Attorney’s Office and reported their suspicions of wrongdoing. Amazingly, Rocha’s real estate broker’s license has not been revoked by the California Department of Real Estate.
As the reader might suspect, many of the victims did not speak much, if any, English and belonged to the same ethnic groups as the criminals (affinity fraud, ethnic fraud) Their loan paperwork was fabricated to show they had more assets than was the case (loan fraud).
Defendants who have already pleaded guilty are Oxnard residents Maria Del Rocio Partida, Miriam Sukey Estrada, Adela Naranjo, Rogelio Vega and Richard Ceniseroz; Camarillo resident Patricia Vega; Ventura resident Eduardo Magdaleno; and Santa Paula resident Leticia Hernandez.
Most of the convicted defendants have been ordered to pay restitution in addition to the prison sentences they have received or are going to receive.
Read the original article in the Ventura County Star.