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Archive for September, 2015

Tony Huy Havens pleads guilty in two real estate fraud cases

September 30th, 2015 at 6:24am

Tony Huy Havens, a Modesto store owner, pleaded guilty to federal wire and mail fraud charges in relation to two real estate schemes investigated by the FBI and the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.

In the first case, Havens, 42, conned who were “desperate for financing to keep their projects from foreclosure,” according to his plead deal. He promised the 15 victims a total of $1.1 billion and collected over $240,000 by claiming he had ties to a wealthy investor in Hong Kong.

In a separate case dating back to 2006 scam, Havens bought homes in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties and scammed lenders by reporting much higher sales prices, keeping the spread for himself. In one of those purchases, he used the names of his in-laws, who were unaware he had done so.

Havens’ sentencing is scheduled for for January 11, 2015.

Read the original article in the Modesto Bee.

 

Nevada Attorney General Laxalt indicts American Equity Foundation owners in short sale fraud case

September 25th, 2015 at 9:20am

The following is a press release from the Office of Nevada Attorney General Laxalt:

Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt announced that Christopher Nelson, 46, of Henderson and Niket Kulkarni, 38, of Los Angeles, CA were indicted by the Clark County Grand Jury on charges of pattern of mortgage lending fraud and racketeering, among others. The defendants operated their business, the American Equity Foundation, between July 2012 and May 2013.

According to the indictment, the defendants are accused of soliciting customers to participate in a short sale program associated with the federal government called the Neighborhood Stabilization Plan. Defendants falsely represented to their clients that their business could facilitate the short sales of customers’ homes to investors. Clients were also told that they could then lease their homes from the investors for a period of time, before having the opportunity to repurchase those homes at a cost of 90-100% of the home’s market value. Through these representations, the defendants are alleged to have unlawfully obtained more than $133,000 from their clients.

“Indictments such as these set a precedent that fraudulent behavior will not be tolerated and will be aggressively pursued,” said Laxalt. “Mortgage fraud can have devastating effects on homeowners and the economy, and my office will hold accountable those who unlawfully collect fees from homeowners using false promises of solutions.”

Special Agent in Charge James Todak of the Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General (HUD-OIG) added, “Our office continues to be vigilant in protecting FHA insured borrowers from those in the mortgage industry willing to defraud them through foreclosure rescue schemes. This prosecution with the Nevada Attorney General’s Office demonstrates our commitment to protecting HUD’s important work in providing affordable home ownership.”

Nelson and Kulkarni are scheduled for initial appearances before the Eighth Judicial District Court on October 5, 2015.

This case was investigated by the HUD-OIG and the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP). Senior Deputy Attorney General Raya Swift and Deputy Attorney General Michael Kovac are prosecuting the case. An indictment is merely a charging document; every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

To read the criminal indictments for Nelson and Kulkarni, click on their respective links. To file a complaint about someone suspected of committing a fraud, click here.

Archbishop of Nevada City Spiritual Organization and Six Others Indicted in $8 Million Mortgage Fraud Conspiracy

September 25th, 2015 at 9:01am

The following is a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Three persons were arrested today on felony charges contained in a 42-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Sacramento on September 10, 2015, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

The indictment, unsealed today, charges John Michael DiChiara, 57, of Nevada City; James C. Castle, 51, formerly of Santa Rosa; Remus A. Kirkpatrick, 58, formerly of Oceanside; George B. Larsen, 54, formerly of San Rafael; Laura Pezzi, 59, of Roseville; Larry Todt, 63, formerly of Malibu; and Michael Romano, 68, of Benicia, charging them with conspiracy, bank fraud, false making of documents, and money laundering. Tisha Trites, 49, and Todd Smith, 44, both of San Diego, pleaded guilty to related charges before U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. on September 4, 2015.

DiChiara was arrested today in Cool, and Pezzi and Romano were arrested at their homes. The other four defendants listed in the indictment have yet to be arrested.

According to the indictment, DiChiara held himself out as the Archbishop of a spiritual organization named Shon-te-East-a, Walks With Spirit, the mission of which was to help individuals spiritually by alleviating them of their home mortgages. DiChiara and Castle (along with Trites who pleaded guilty to a related charge) are alleged to have orchestrated a mortgage-elimination program that fraudulently altered the chain of title on residential properties, selling the properties, and receiving the sales proceeds. Kirkpatrick, Larsen, Todt, Romano, and others allegedly recruited homeowners into the program with the promise of relief from foreclosure and a share of the sales proceeds. DiChiara and others used Shon-te-East to control the sale of the properties.

The indictment alleges that, once the homeowners were enrolled in the program, Pezzi and others created fictitious deeds of trust, a falsely made deed of reconveyance, and, where necessary, a falsely made notice of rescission of notice of default. The fictitious deed of trust was recorded at the county recorder’s office, and gave the appearance that the homeowner had refinanced the mortgage with a new lender. Todd Smith (who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy) or an entity controlled by the defendants was listed as the new lender, ensuring that when the properties were sold, the defendants would receive the sales proceeds. The defendants then caused to be recorded at the county recorder’s office a falsely made deed of reconveyance, indicating that the mortgage debt had been repaid to the financial institution holding the mortgage and reconveying title back to the homeowner. With these fraudulent documents on file at the county recorder’s office, a title search on the property would give the impression that the homeowner had refinanced, and no other debt was owing on the property. When the defendants caused the sale of these properties, they were able to divert the sale proceeds away from the lending institutions to their own benefit.

The defendants are alleged to have sold 37 properties through the mortgage elimination program, and attempted to sell at least an additional 97 properties, obtaining profits in excess of $8 million. They attempted to extinguish in excess of $60 million in legitimate mortgage loans.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Audrey Hemesath is prosecuting the case.

If convicted of the conspiracy count, the defendants face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for bank fraud is 30 years and a $1 million fine. The maximum penalty for false making of documents is 10 years and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for money laundering is 10 years and an additional fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

New York AG Schneiderman settles with attorneys, mortgage broker in mortgage rescue fraud case

September 22nd, 2015 at 9:06am

Note: I’m sure thousands of Californians are wondering why Attorney General Kamala Harris has not shown the same desire to prosecute mortgage fraud as other states’ AGs. See AGScamHelp.com/

The following is a press release from the Office of the Attorney General for the State of New York:

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that he had reached settlement agreements with a disbarred attorney, an attorney, and a mortgage broker, who along with others allegedly operated a mortgage foreclosure rescue scam on Long Island that robbed 14 Long Island homeowners out of their homes’ deeds and equity. The mortgage foreclosure rescue scam involved multiple alleged partners: Empire Property Solutions and its principals, John Rutigliano and Kenneth Kiefer, located in Medford and Bethpage, NY; Zornberg & Hirsch law firm and its married principals, disbarred attorney Barry Zornberg and Nanci Hirsch, located in Hauppauge, NY; H&Z Abstract, a title company owned by Hirsch, located in Hauppauge, NY; Cory Covert, an attorney licensed to practice in New York, located in Hauppauge, NY; and mortgage broker Leonie Neufville (d/b/a Neufville Mortgage, located in Baldwin, NY).

Under the settlements, Barry Zornberg agreed to pay $340,000; Cory Covert agreed to pay $67,500.00; and Leonie Neufville agreed to pay $10,000.00 and accept a five-year ban on acting as a broker. The Attorney General has received a default judgment against Rutigliano and Kiefer, which will be converted into a money judgment. All of these funds will be used to compensate victims of the “sale-leaseback” fraud, which was perpetrated at the height of the housing crash on Long Island.

“This shameful scam re-victimized families already suffering from the collapse of the housing market,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office has the resources to connect families in danger of foreclosure with qualified housing counselors and lawyers. We’ve already helped more than 50,000 families across the state, but our work will not end until we’ve guaranteed that every family in need can get the help they deserve.”

Under this mortgage rescue scam, Empire Property Solutions advertised in local papers, offering services to help families save their homes from foreclosure by refinancing their mortgages and repairing their credit scores. The company’s principals, Rutigliano and Kiefer, encouraged homeowners to turn over the titles to them through “sale-leaseback” agreements. Homeowners were told they could stay in the properties, pay rent, build up their credit, and then, after a year, that title in the home would revert back to them. But the Attorney General’s investigation found that Rutigliano and Kiefer failed to make good on their promises to use the homeowners’ payments to pay down their mortgages. In the end, the homeowners faced foreclosure and eviction.

The attorneys represented buyers, sellers, and banks at various closings of these sale-leaseback transactions, which took place at the office of Zornberg & Hirsch. But the attorneys allegedly failed to represent the interests of the homeowners, and were instead integral to inducing them to enter into the fraudulent transactions with Empire Property Solutions. As alleged, the scam also relied on the participation of a mortgage broker, Leonie Neufville, who prepared loan applications that were integral to the effort to fraudulently obtain new mortgages.

After filing a civil complaint, Attorney General Schneiderman reached multiple settlements that will return money to the victims of this fraudulent mortgage rescue scheme.

The settlement with Zornberg, Nanci Hirsch, H&Z Abstact, and Zornberg & Hirsch law firm requires Zornberg to pay a total of $340,000. The settlement with the other attorney, Cory Covert, requires him to pay $67,500. The settlement with the mortgage broker, Leonie Neufville, bars her from practicing in the real estate industry for five years and requires her to pay $10,000.

Attorney General Schneiderman has also received a default judgment against Rutigliano and Kiefer, the principals of Empire Principal Solutions. Since Rutigliano has passed away, his estate is in probate, and the Attorney General is working to convert the default judgment against Rutigliano and Kiefer into a money judgment.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is working with several of the victims to return their deeds to their rightful ownership. OAG is also actively helping another family purchase a new home with the restitution they will receive from the settlements.

One of the homeowners who will get her deed back is Rosalie Thomas, a licensed nurse practitioner from Elmont, NY. After receiving a foreclosure notice in 2006, Thomas called Empire Property Solutions for help. Empire Property Solutions claimed Thomas could avoid foreclosure by signing onto their payment plan, but she still received a foreclosure notice a year later after spending tens of thousands of dollars.

“This whole ordeal has been very scary and stressful,” said Rosalie Thomas. “My youngest son was born in the house that Empire Property Solutions tried to take away from me. It’s the only home he’s ever known. I’m looking forward to finally getting the deed back and finally putting this behind me.”

Ronald Lambre and Marie DiManche, Haitian immigrants who live in Medford, NY, are working with OAG to purchase a new home with money from the settlements. After seeing an ad in the newspaper, Ms. Dimanche, a certified nursing assistant, called Empire Property Solutions and set up a payment plan that was initially half of what she and her husband were paying on their mortgage. After a year, Empire Property Solutions tripled the monthly payments and threatened to evict Lambre and DiManche if they did not pay. Their family, which includes six children, left the home and has since moved three times. OAG came across their case after opening an investigation.

“There is no way to describe how you feel when your home is stolen,” said Marie DiManche. “I’m from Haiti, and it was my dream to own a house. How do you tell your kids you can’t get back what you lost? Thanks to these settlements, my family will finally have a chance to start over again.”

The federal government also brought a criminal investigation against the partners of this sale-leaseback fraud. The United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) indicted Rutigliano and Kiefer on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. USAO also indicted Zornberg for lying to federal investigators about his role in the scam.

The indictment has been dismissed against Rutigliano due to his death. Kiefer pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Zornberg pleaded guilty to perjury as part of a plea deal and has agreed to pay approximately $1.3 million in compensation to the victims of the fraud. Zornberg is awaiting final sentencing in federal criminal court.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Richard Yorke, Senior Investigator Paul Matthews, and Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Nassau Regional Office, Valerie Singleton, under the supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Offices, Marty Mack.  The case was previously handled by former Assistant Attorney General Victoria Safran.

In December 2014, Attorney General Schneiderman launched AGScamHelp.com, a web-based app that helps homeowners determine whether a mortgage assistance company has been vetted by a government agency.

OAG launched AGScamHelp.com in direct response to an observed increase in mortgage rescue scams in New York and across the country. According to a December 2014 report by the Center for NYC Neighborhoods and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, more than 42,000 homeowners have been conned out of $100 million nationwide.

New Yorkers have been hit particularly hard. From March 2010 to September 2014, New York homeowners submitted more than 2,700 foreclosure rescue scam complaints to the Lawyer Committee for Civil Rights, documenting at least $8.25 million in losses. Since AGScamHelp.com launched in December, more than 26,000 New Yorkers have visited the website.

AGScamHelp.com has several informational features:

  • Search Government-Vetted Companies: AGScamHelp.com allows consumers to search the name of an individual or company to determine if that entity is a “government-vetted” agency (that is, either a member of the Attorney General’s HOPP network or a HUD-certified counseling agency). If the company searched is not a government-vetted agency, the consumer will be told to proceed with caution and advised with several tips on how to identify signs of a foreclosure rescue scam.
  • Locate Nearby Counseling Partners: The web-based app also features an interactive map that allows consumers to find the nearest Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) grantee. The Attorney General has dedicated $100 million to fund HOPP, a network of more than 85 housing counseling and legal services agencies across the state that are dedicated to providing free assistance to New Yorkers.
  • Report Scams: Consumers who have already been contacted by, or are in the process of working with a company suspected of operating a foreclosure rescue scam, will also have the option to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. They will be directed to a separate page where they can complete a complaint form online. All complaints will be directed to the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection, and will be mediated by the Attorney General’s Office.
  • Get Tips: AGScamHelp.com offers details on how to recognize signs of a foreclosure rescue scam, including samples of scam letters and other materials utilized by fraudsters to target homeowners, and provides information about recent foreclosure scams that have been the subject of enforcement actions brought by the Attorney General’s Office and other law enforcement agencies.

Homeowners at risk of foreclosure should reach out to OAG, which can connect them with a free, qualified housing counseling agency within the Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP).

 

Newman man operating phony real estate investment program ordered to prison

September 22nd, 2015 at 8:17am

Sixty-three-year-old Ralph Leyva has been sentenced to four years in prison after pleading no contest to charges related to conducting a real estate scam.

According to prosecutors in the  Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office, Leyva defrauded his investors by promising them he would sell them bulk REO (foreclosed) properties from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at a 30% discount, when in fact he was transferring the money from his phony businesses to a personal account. As a result, the court ordered him to pay restitution to his victims.

Ralph Leyva’s case was investigated by the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office real estate fraud unit and the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Office of Inspector General.

Read the original article in the Modesto Bee.

Orange County man and business partner plead guilty in mortgage modification fraud

September 17th, 2015 at 10:40am

Irvine-based Ped Abghari and Justin Romano of Blue Point, New York, have each pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a loan modification scam.  Abghari, who also uses the name Ted Allen, additionally pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony.

The indictment, brought by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, alleges that Abghari offered mortgage modification services through the Irvine company he owned and that Romano did the same as the president of two “purported” law firms in New York. The men found their customers by purchasing the contact information of homeowners in distress and hiring a telemarketing firm to solicit their services to those homeowners. In all, the two men and their firms collected over $18.5 million from over 8,000 homeowners/victims.

Read the original article in HousingWire.

 

Heaven Investments director sentenced to prison

September 17th, 2015 at 10:15am

Ken Sarna, 50, the director of operations for Heaven Investments Holding Corp.,  has been sentenced by U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley to two years and six months in prison for a count of selling unregistered securities.

Heaven Investments Holding Corp. was based in Carmichael and raised up to $30 million through its website and investor forums. The investment money was supposed to be placed into a real estate exchange program but the company did not have a license to sell the investments.

Heaven Investments was family-owned and operated by Akbar Bhamani, and his sons Zain Bhamani and Aly Bhamani, both of whom were vice presidents. For their roles, the Bhamanis also received prison sentences.

The case was investigated by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; the prosecutor was Assistant United States Attorney Michele Beckwith from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.

Read the original article in the Sacramento Business Journal.

Operators of “Indestructible Wealth Bootcamp” target of SEC for investor fraud

September 17th, 2015 at 9:54am

Paul Ricky Mata, David Kayatta and Mario Pincheira are on the receiving end of civil fraud charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which accuses the men of diverting money given to them for investments for their own personal use and for unrelated business ventures. The SEC has obtained an asset freeze and a preliminary injunction against the trio as part of its action.

In a separate action, the California Department of Business Oversight filed a $20 million securities lawsuit in state courts.

The SEC claims that Paul Mata ran the scam through his companies Secured Capital Investments, Logos Wealth Advisors, Lifetime Enterprises and Logos Real Estate Holdings. Solicitations by Mata, Kayata and Pincheira are alleged to have raised $14 million for two unregistered real estate funds by posting videos to YouTube channel with titles such as “Finances God’s Way” and “Indestructible Wealth.”

Mata, previously a financial advisor for Ameriprise Financial, has an  “extensive disciplinary history,” according to the SEC.

Read the original article in Financial Advisor Magazine.

 

Father and son charged in short sale fraud of their properties

September 4th, 2015 at 8:24am

Two New Jersey men have been charged with bank fraud for allegedly setting up fraudulent short sales of their own properties in Emerson and Park Ridge.

George Bussanich Sr., 56, of Park Ridge, and George Bussanich Jr., 35, of Upper Saddle River, were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and two counts of bank fraud.

Bussanich Sr. is alleged to have sold the Emerson and Park Ridge properties as short sales to straw buyers, for which he provided the purchase money. He later re-purchased the properties from the straw buyers. His son is alleged to have lied to one of the mortgage servicers about one of the properties.

The intended outcome of selling one’s own properties to a straw buyer and then re-taking ownership is to get a write-down in the principal owed on the property, at the expense of the original lender.

 

In 2014, the Bussaniches agreed to pay to pay $5.5 million – including $4 million in restitution – to settle allegations that they defrauded more than 30 investors and spent the money on Maseratis, a Ferrari and expensive homes, charges which they denied.

Read the original article in NorthJersey.com

© Copyright 2007-2017 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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