California Real Estate Fraud Report

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Archive for the 'Mortgage Elimination' Category

Attorney General Becerra Announces Arrest and Indictments for $2 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme in Southern California

February 14th, 2018 at 9:46am

The following is a press release from the Office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra:

SAN DIEGO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the indictment of four individuals on 194 criminal felony counts for allegedly operating a mortgage fraud scheme throughout Southern California. The scheme resulted in a loss of approximately $2 million for 40 victims who were seeking loans to help pay off their mortgages. Many of the victims lost their homes and life savings.

Andrew Valles, Jemal Lilly, Mark Bellinger and Arnold Millman were indicted by a grand jury in the San Diego Superior Court for grand theft, filing false or forged documents in a public office, conspiracy to commit those offenses, and identity theft, as well as special allegations for aggravated white collar crime. Two of defendants, Jemal Lilly and Mark Bellinger were arrested on January 30, 2018; they pled not guilty at their arraignments on February 2 and February 13, 2018. Defendants Andrew Valles and Arnold Millman have not been arrested and are currently at large and out of custody. The arrests were the product of a joint investigation by the California Department of Justice, the California Department of Insurance, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of the Inspector General (FHFA-OIG). The United States Trustee Program assisted in providing a grand jury witness.

“The perpetrators of this mortgage fraud stole the life savings of decent Californians,” said Attorney General Becerra. “It’s too common a story with all-too-common tactics. I hope today’s arrests and indictments break the stride of those who prey on hard working Americans and betray their trust. This case demonstrates the potency of multi-jurisdictional law enforcement agencies collaborating to fight fraud.”

According to the indictment, between 2012 and 2017, the defendants conspired using a fake insurance company, “SafeCare,” which promised to provide home loan services at a low monthly price to primarily Latino and African American families. During this time, the defendants would delay foreclosures and eviction actions by filing false bankruptcy and other court documents under fictitious names. They would instruct victims to deposit illegal advance fees and other large payments into a bank account controlled by the defendants and, when the promised loan did not come through, would proceed with the fabricated filings. One of the defendants allegedly committed identity theft by posing as an attorney purporting to assist the victims. The victims were charged additional fees for the false “attorney services.” The scheme took place in San Diego, Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino counties.

“These individuals are alleged to have played a role in this scheme by promising distressed homeowners new financing only to turn around and deliver bad credit. These actions not only cost the government sponsored enterprises and financial institutions hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they harmed consumers who were trying to do the right thing. FHFA-OIG thanks its law enforcement partners for their efforts,” said Rene Febles, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations for the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of the Inspector General.

“This case is evidence that insurance fraud is not a victimless crime,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “These suspects allegedly deceived dozens of victims to the tune of over $2 million, leaving them uninsured and at great financial risk. Thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement partners, we were able to work together to unravel this case and stop this criminal enterprise.”

Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting Californians from criminal fraudsters. If you are a homeowner who believes you may have been targeted by SafeCare, please contact the California Department of Justice. For those located in California, please call: 1-800-952-5225. For those located outside of California, please call: 1-916-322-3360.

It is important to note that a criminal indictment contains charges that must be proven in a court of law. Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Two Members Of A Nevada City-Based Conspiracy Convicted In Multi-Million Dollar Bank And Title Fraud Scheme

December 8th, 2017 at 9:19am

The following is a press release by the FBI:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Earlier today, a federal jury found two men guilty in a bank fraud scheme that sought to fraudulently eliminate home mortgages and then profit on the subsequent home sales, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

George B. Larsen, 56, formerly of San Rafael, was found guilty of conspiracy and four counts of bank fraud. Larry Todt, 65, formerly of Malibu, was found guilty of conspiracy and one count of bank fraud.

According to court documents, between April 22, 2010, and November 18, 2011, Larsen and Todt were members of a conspiracy that ran a “mortgage elimination program” purporting to help distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure.  The conspirators fraudulently altered the chain of title on residential properties, sold the properties, and received the sales proceeds.

As a requirement for participation in the “mortgage elimination program,” the conspirators enrolled homeowners as members in a Nevada City-based church named Shon-te-East-a, Walks With Spirit, or its successor entity Pillow Foundation. The conspirators indicated to the homeowners these entities would offer protection against the banks.

Larsen and Todt each ran branches of the mortgage elimination program, recruiting homeowners into the scheme, marshalling the necessary recorded documents, and guiding the homes through sale. Once the homeowner enrolled with Shon-te-East-a or Pillow Foundation, Larsen and Todt would have a sham deed of trust created and recorded, giving the impression that the homeowner had refinanced the mortgage loan with a new lender. In reality, the new lender was a fake entity controlled by the conspirators, and the homeowner owed no money to the purported new lender.

The next step in the process was also a recorded document. The conspirators caused a fake deed of reconveyance to be recorded, giving the appearance that the true mortgage loan had been discharged and that the true lienholder no longer had a security interest in the home.

With title appearing to be clear, the conspirators caused the sale of the home, with the proceeds split between the co-conspirators and the homeowners.

In total, 37 properties were sold through the Shon-te-East-a conspiracy. The conspirators recorded fraudulent documents on an additional approximately 100 homes, but were unable to sell these before the scheme unraveled.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Audrey B. Hemesath and Todd A. Pickles are prosecuting the case.

Three other co-defendants have previously entered guilty pleas. On April 21, 2017, Remus A. Kirkpatrick, formerly of Oceanside, pleaded guilty to one count of falsely making writings of lending associations. On May 26, 2017, Michael Romano, of Benicia, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and on July 14, 2017, Laura Pezzi, of Roseville, pleaded guilty to falsely making writings of lending associations. They are scheduled to be sentenced on February 23, 2018.     Co-defendants John Michael DiChiara, of Penn Valley, and James Castle, of Santa Rosa, are still awaiting trial. The charges against DiChiara and Castle are only allegations:  both defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In related cases, on September 4, 2015, Tisha Trites and Todd Smith, both of San Diego, pleaded guilty to related charges before U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell, Jr. They are scheduled to be sentenced on February 9, 2018.

Larsen and Todt are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell, Jr. on March 16, 2018, at which time they each 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 actual sentences, however, will 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.

How JPMorgan Chase Forgave Mortgages It Didn’t Own in Sweet Deal with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

October 6th, 2017 at 9:02am

Interesting articles from Esquire and The Nation how JPMorgan Chase and its CEO Jamie Dimon got out of paying a $25 billion “settlement” with the Justice Department under former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

 

Defendants in America’s Law Group, Rodis Law Group, Sentenced in Mortgage Modification Fraud Case

July 14th, 2017 at 8:48am

Charles Wayne Farris, 65, of Aliso Viejo and Ronald Rodis, 52, of Long Beach have been sentenced to prison for their roles in a mortgage modification fraud that defraud 1,500 distressed property owners out of over $9 million.

Farris was ordered to serve 47 months in prison, while Rodis, who had previously surrendered his license to practice law, was sentenced to 41 months. The California Real Estate Fraud Report reported back in August 2016 that both men had pleaded guilty to felony counts of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and were ordered to make restitution payments to their victims in the millions of dollars.

Bryan D’Antonio, who was the owner and operator of the Rodis Law Group, aka America’s Law Group, was sentenced to 97 months in prison in a plea deal.

According to the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, the victims were located by the defendants placing radio ads claiming the Rodis Law Group employed experienced attorneys who could help struggling homeowners get lower interest rates from their lenders or even get their mortgages reduced.

Read the original article in the Orange County Register.

 

 

Brea Man Sentenced by Federal Judge to Long Prison Time for Multi-Million Dollar Mortgage Modification Scam

April 14th, 2017 at 9:41am

Despite the pleas of high-powered defense attorney Manny Medrano for an 18-month sentence, Bryan D’Antonio was sentenced to over eight years in prison for a operating a mortgage modification scam.

In imposing the sentence, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter ordered D’Antonio to not only serve 97 months in prison, but also 12 months in a halfway house, three years of supervised probation and to restitution of $3.8 million. Judge Carter noted that D’Antonio was still on supervised release after a four-year conviction for a previous medical-billing scheme.

Bryan D’Antonio was the owner and operator of Rodis Law Group and agreed last year to plead guilty to defrauding more than 1,500 people out of $9 million.

Although D’Antonio apologized to the court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph McNally characterized Rodis Law Group as a boiler room, telemarketer operation that lured desperate homeowners by advertising a non-existent team of attorney who would help the homeowners renegotiate their interest rates and principal balances.

Co-defendants Charles Wayne Farris of Aliso Viejo and Ronald Rodis of Irvine have, like D’Antonio, pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to commit mail and wire-fraud charges and have yet to be sentenced.

Read the original article in the Orange County Register.

Operator of Mercury Business Group Pleads Guilty in Foreclosure Consultant Fraud Case

December 8th, 2016 at 5:39pm

Patrick Iturra, 46, of Canyon Lake, pleaded guilty to two counts of foreclosure consultant fraud and three counts of felony grand theft, according to Ventura County prosecutors.

Iturra, who operated a business called Mercury Business Group, was accused of promising homeowners he could save their properties from foreclosure if they paid him upfront fees.

In addition to facing a possible jail sentence, Iturra “will be ordered to pay restitution to the victims,” say prosecutors.

Read the original article in the Ventura County Star.

 

California man gets prison in Las Vegas mortgage fraud scam

October 28th, 2016 at 6:14am

Franklin Marquez, 52, has been sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison for his involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme. He was convicted on one count of pattern of mortgage lending fraud, a category “B” felony.

Marquez and his co-defendants – Maria Lorena Anzu, Jose Ben Rodriguez and Gilberto Navidad , were alleged to have operated a criminal enterprise in Las Vegas called Majestic Group, LLC. Their pitch to distressed homeowners was that they could sell their homes to Majestic Group at market value and then the company would sell their homes back to them at lower, more affordable prices. The victims were charged upfront fees along with monthly payments.

Read the original article in News3LV.

No Justice, Say Victims of Petaluma Real Estate Agent in Mortgage Fraud

September 30th, 2016 at 7:46am

Victims of a Petaluma real estate agent whom prosecutors ripping off at least 100 persons in the  Bay Area in an alleged mortgage fraud scam are outraged at the terms of his settlement with state prosecutors.

Miguel Angel Lopez-Soleta, 44, pleaded no contest to felony grand theft and embezzlement from an elderly person through his Rohnert Park business, Mortgage Modifiers, in 2012.

Lopez-Soleta will only serve one year in jail and receive five years of probation.

According to former client Robert Gillis, whose mother lost her Novato home to foreclosure because of Lopez-Soleta, “It’s totally unacceptable. None of the victims agree with it. They are so upset.”

Caroline S. Chen, the deputy attorney general handling the case for Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, did not return a call Thursday seeking comment.

The only good bit of news is that the real estate license of Miguel Angel Lopez-Soleta has been revoked by the California Bureau of Real Estate.

Read the full article in the Press Democrat.

 

 

Aliso Viejo Man Pleads Guilty in Mortgage Modification Fraud

July 28th, 2016 at 5:33am

Aliso Viejo resident Charles Wayne Farris, 55, has pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges for his role as a sales manager in a mortgage modification fraud case that cost 1,500 people almost $9 million.

Farris’  co-conspirator, former attorney Ronald Rodis, had  previously pleaded guilty to a felony conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. A third defendant, Bryan D’Antonio, still awaits his turn at trial for nine counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

According to prosecutors, both Rodis Law Group and America’s Law Group used nationwide radio advertisements to portray themselves as a team of experienced attorneys that could negotiated lower-interests rates or principal balances.

“The defendants in this case preyed upon vulnerable homeowners facing the loss of their home and callously took advantage of what hope they had left,” said Deirdre L. Fike, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, in a statement last week.

Read the original article in the OC Register.

San Diego Brothers Sentenced to Prison for “Debt Elimination” Scheme, Short Sale Fraud

March 28th, 2016 at 5:53pm

Brothers and former real estate agents Adel and Atef Afkarian were sentenced to prison terms for operating a fraudulent “debt elimination” scheme as well as a complicated short sale fraud that ripped off lenders in the San Diego area.

Adel Afkarian was sentenced  to 18 months by U.S. District Judge John Houston and Atef Afkarian received 13 months. The judge ordered the brothers to pay more than $5.5 million in restitution to their victims. Their licenses had previously been revoked by the California Bureau of Real Estate.

After identifying underwater homeowners (including themselves), the Afkarians recorded fraudulent deeds (title fraud) that showed the loans on the properties had been extinguished. They then sold the properties to unaware buyers. The original mortgage lenders, who did not know about the fraudulent title documents, were not paid. This included their own $1.4 million mortgage.

At the same time, the Afkarians conspired to transact fraudulent short sales for underwater clients through a simultaneous “double escrow” scheme involving the use of straw buyers.

Read the original article in Fox 5 News.

© Copyright 2007-2018 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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