California Real Estate Fraud Report

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Archive for March, 2017

An Important Supplemental Disciplinary Advisory from the California Bureau of Real Estate

March 24th, 2017 at 4:54am

The following is from an email alert from the California Bureau of Real Estate:

    Licensee Alert                 Issued March 2017

Supplemental Disciplinary Advisory to Real Estate Salespersons Who Mislead Consumers into Falsely Believing that They are Brokers — and a Concurrent Caution to the “[Ir]responsible” Brokers Who Permit or Support Such Practices

                       By Wayne S. Bell, California Real Estate Commissioner and

Mark Tutera, Special Investigator

 

In September 2015, the California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE) issued an advisory which was captioned “Disciplinary Warning to Real Estate Salespersons Who Act, Conduct Themselves, and/or Advertise as ‘Independent’ Real Estate Professionals — and a Simultaneous Caution to Brokers Who Allow or Support Such Practices”.

(http://www.calbre.ca.gov/files/pdf/adv/Independent%20Real%20Estate%20Professionals.pdf)

Licensees of CalBRE are well advised to review that prior advisory since we continue to see some of the same bad practices identified in that writing.

This discipline “advisory” is being issued as a supplement to that prior warning since CalBRE has taken notice of the use by some real estate salespersons of names and designations (and attendant Internet and marketing materials) that suggest to the public – and mislead consumers into falsely believing – that such salespersons are real estate brokers.

A scenario that we have repeatedly seen is the use by a salesperson (who for this illustration we will identify as John Doe) of a fictitious business name that would lead members of the public to incorrectly believe that the business is operated and managed by a real estate broker. In this example, salesperson Doe conducts business using the name Doe Real Estate.  Doe advertises using that business name, and the advertisements are connected to, or accompanied by, a webpage and other materials that extol the virtues of Doe Real Estate.  The public would not think that Doe is a salesperson who must be supervised by another, and would most certainly conclude that Doe Real Estate is a real estate broker or brokerage.  And the above practices are unlawful.

In addition to the above, many salespersons continue to brand and identify themselves as “independent” real estate practitioners, and they practice and advertise as such.  Unless those salespersons are operating as “teams”, in full compliance with the California laws and rules pertaining to teams (e.g., the disclosure of I.D numbers and the name of responsible broker, and the surname of at least one of the licensee members of the team along with the use of the terms “team”, “group” or associates” with regard to the team), that is unlawful as well.

Further, and depending on the specific language employed with respect to the name(s) and designation(s) used by the real estate salespersons, there might be a violation of the law relative to the use of fictitious names.  Please see the prior guidance given by CalBRE on the proper use and licensing of fictitious names.

As was also stated in the prior warning, under California law, with its two-tiered licensing system, real estate salespersons cannot provide – or advertise that they can provide – real estate services independently of their responsible brokers.

Likewise, salespersons must be associated or affiliated with, and be reasonably supervised by (which supervision includes broker review of the advertising used by the broker’s salesperson or salespersons pursuant to Commissioner’s Regulation 2725(e)) a responsible broker in order to engage in real estate licensed activities in California.  The law provides no exceptions.

CalBRE will take appropriate disciplinary action (including the imposition of significant fines, and  – where appropriate – the revocation of licensure) against real estate salespersons who engage in the unlawful activities discussed above, and against real estate brokers who permit their salespersons to engage in such activities.

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Wave of Short Sale Deposit Scams in the Los Angeles Area

March 23rd, 2017 at 9:41am

The following short sale fraud scam was printed on the California Association of Realtors website:

While we all are concerned about cybercrime and identity theft, it appears taking someone’s money the old-fashioned way has reappeared in short sale scams in Southern California. The alleged scams appear to follow the same basic format.  A short sale agreement was entered into four to six months ago.  The buyer made an initial deposit in the $5,000 to $15,000 range into the listing broker’s non-independent broker escrow.  As with most short sales, the process takes several months and the selling agent is assured that the listing agent is working towards lender approval – it is just taking more time.  Then the communication slows down, the selling agent begins to get concerned and calls the listing broker’s escrow.  There is no answer and no return call and no other number to contact.

A case has been opened with the Long Beach Police Department, Financial Crimes Division.  The officer in charge is Detective Robert Ryan (562) 570-7391.  As of late December, there were approximately 20 victims.  However, the C.A.R. Hotline has received more than 15 calls since the first of the year which have been referred to the Long Beach Police.  The California Bureau of Real Estate is also aware of this case.

Additionally, the Los Angeles County Sheriff has made an arrest in what appears to be an identical scam involving at least 32 victims with a total loss of $498,000. To contact the LA Sheriff’s office call Detective Keith Clark at (562) 946-7217 or tips can be made anonymously at Crime Stoppers, (800) 222-TIPS (8477).

If you believe you or your buyer has fallen victim to a short sale scam, you should contact the police and the Bureau of Real Estate.

Appeals Court Upholds $23 Million Award for Disabled Siblings Defrauded by Contractor

March 17th, 2017 at 9:11am

This month California’s Second Appellate District, Division Two, Court of Appeal upheld an award (case no. BC495095) of $21 million in punitive damages and $2.2 million in compensatory damages against building contractor Noam Bouzaglou, and his shell corporation, Ness Adam, Inc. for defrauding siblings Kathleen McGinty and Tim McGinty, in order to obtain their 1948 home in Santa Monica.

Kathleen suffers from autism and Tim (now deceased) from bipolar disorder, depression and substance addiction.

After their garage was red-tagged by the City of Santa Monica in 2010, they hired Noam Bouzaglou to do the repairs. A series of events and meetings that occurred between Bouzaglou, attorney Andrew J. Stern and the McGintys that resulted in the latter transferring their home to Bouzaglou.

Jeanne Haworth, the trustee after Tim McGinty‘s death, found out that the home was in escrow for $1.55 million and contacted the original estate planning attorney Joe Girard of LA Elder Law, who filed a lawsuit to stop the sale.

“If this sale had gone through, $1.55 million could have disappeared overnight,” said Girard. “Once we got the real estate under control of the judge, Jeanne and Kathleen had more security.”

Read the original article in PRWeb and on the LA Elder Law website.

Ventura County D.A. Warns of Rental Scams

March 17th, 2017 at 8:40am

If you are a renter or prospective renter, this article in the Camarillo Acorn will be invaluable to you. The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office is proactive in protecting the rights of residents and this article contains important information to help you protect yourself.

Rental scams are an ongoing problem, at least in Southern California. Criminals will often induce renters to sign leases to properties the criminal has no legal right to rent, or even to show.

If a real estate agent is involved and the listing is posted on online media such as Craig’s List, search to see if the property is also listed on major real estate websites such as Trulia. Ask the agent for their business card, which by law requires their California Bureau of Real Estate license number to be indicated. The brokerage under which their license is held should also be listed.

Long Beach Man Sentenced to Prison for Mortgage Fraud Scam

March 10th, 2017 at 12:49pm

Long Beach resident John Martynec, 41, has been sentenced to federal prison for two years for helping to run a scheme which cost lenders over $2.4 million.

Martynec,  a formerly licensed real estate broker and co-owner of JTR Real Estate Inc. in Norwalk, found homes that could be purchased and “flipped” after undergoing renovations. He and one of his real estate agents, Elek Andrade, would purchase the homes by using the personal information of individuals without the consent of those persons.

Andrade, 32, was sentenced to one year and one day, as was Mireya Espinoza, 36, for providing fraudulent supporting documents, such as employment verification.

“Schemes like this can destabilize the financial industry and the real estate market,” United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement. “The last economic crisis demonstrates the dangers of such destabilization and the importance of prosecuting crimes like those committed by these defendants.”

U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer ordered the two men to pay $2,573,092 in restitution and Espinoza to pay $1,476,966 in restitution.

Read the original article in the Long Beach Post.

A Story about an Appraiser Who is One of the Good Guys

March 2nd, 2017 at 11:06am

This is an great human-interest story about Gary Crabtree, who has run an appraisal business in Kern County for 55 years.

In the course of his work in the first decade of this century, Crabtree uncovered a massive mortgage fraud and appraisal fraud scheme operated by the brokerage Crisp & Cole Real Estate and Tower Lending. There are many articles posted in the California Real Estate Fraud Report about David Crisp and Carl Cole and their employees.

You can read about Gary Crabtree‘s remarkable career in the Bakersfield Californian.

 

Former Roseville Real Estate Agent Sentenced to Prison for Forging Documents

March 2nd, 2017 at 10:54am

Alla Samchuk, 45, who was previously a licensed real estate agent, has been sentenced to nine years and six months in federal prison for mortgage fraud, identity theft and obstruction of justice. She was convicted last August.

According to prosecutors, from 2006 through 2008, Samchuk concocted a mortgage fraud involving two homes in Roseville and one in El Dorado Hills. Because she was unable to qualify for the loans, so she found straw buyers to apply for the loans in their own names. The applications contained false statements regarding income, employment and assets, including falsely representing that the straw buyers would occupy the homes.

Judge Garland Burrell Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento was the trial judge. He imposed the longer sentence because Samchuk had threatened a witness not to report her crimes.

You can read more about the history of the case by going to the U.S. Government Publishing Office.

Read the original article in the Sacramento Business Journal.

Attorney Stephen Siringoringo Sentenced in San Bernardino Loan Modification Scam

March 2nd, 2017 at 10:36am

Stephen Siringoringo, a Westminster attorney who targeted poor and Spanish-language victims in San Bernardino County in a loan modification fraud scheme, is going to prison for seven years and ordered to pay $108,000 in restitution.

Siringoringo, 35, who was disbarred in March 2015, pleaded guilty to to grand theft and money laundering for his role in the $44 million scam. He found his victims by advertising on radio and television and gaining their trust for his “mortgage relief” services by telling them he was an attorney.

San Bernardino County District Attorney officials said in the news release, “Siringoringo, in particular, preyed on the victims by using his position as an attorney to gain their trust and charge large unlawful upfront fees and monthly payments. Most of the victims never received any loan modification, and many who had lost their money with Siringoringo, Cobb and Clausen sought assistance through other means.”

The investigation was conducted by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office-Bureau Real Estate Fraud Unit. In addition to his conviction, Stephen Siringoringo was ordered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to provide $20,825,000 in restitution to victims outside of the county.

Read the original article in 24/7 and Highland News.

 

Ventura Resident to Jail for Foreclosure Consultant Fraud

March 2nd, 2017 at 10:18am

Patrick Iturra, who was a partner in a firm called Mercury Business Group, has been sentenced to one year in jail after he was convicted of five counts of foreclosure consultant fraud and grand theft.

Mercury Business Group claimed to help homeowners who were having trouble paying their mortgages. According to prosecutors, there were eight documented victims, seven of whom lost their homes to foreclosure.

Read the original article in KCLU.

© 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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