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Archive for the 'Public Corruption' Category

AG Eric Holder considers bankers may have responsibility in mortgage crisis

February 18th, 2015 at 8:21am

Outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder – known for his opposition to prosecuting bankers for their prominent roles in the mortgage crisis – is finally giving lip service to the notion of personal responsibility. He’s given his AGs only 90 days to determine whether to charge individuals whose firms sold toxic mortgage-backed securities to investors.

Holder has been resistant to the point of indifferent to protecting consumers, who have suffered deeply from predatory banking practices. I’m not holding my breath. My bet is that as soon as he leaves office, he goes to work either for a mega-bank or a law firm that represents banks.

California has yet to indict any bankers, whether it is from the U.S. Attorneys’ offices or the office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Read the full article in DSNews.

Is Eric Holder a Traitor to the People and a Shill to the Banks?

November 18th, 2014 at 9:49am

If you have time – maybe a long coffee break – you may want to read this fascinating article in Rolling Stone about the settlement between Attorney General Eric Holder, “his” Department of Justice and how time-after-time he has allowed banks that mislabeled and sold mortgage-backed securities to get off-the-hook by paying monetary fines.

This article shows that the upstart Occupy Movement has had some effect on President Obama, but still not enough to get meaningful justice for homeowners and institutional investors, both of which were financially beat-up by the banks. It reveals that the primary banker who is the focus of the article, Jamie Dimon of Chase Bank and much of upper-management, allegedly knew Chase was packaging subprime securities as “Alt-A” (a higher-quality category) and getting rid of them before the borrowers defaulted, saving Chase billions but again causing significant losses to the credit unions and small financial institutions that purchased them, not knowing these shoddy mortgages would blow-up in their faces.

Besides the research performed by Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi, much of the information comes from his interview with former Chase transaction manager Alayne Fleischman, an attorney by profession. Ms. Fleischman tells the actual story of how Jamie Dimon and Chase Bank wiggled out what she termed “criminal fraud” and how almost every government agency that should have investigated this and other mega-bank misdeeds (think: SEC) either dropped the ball, aided in the cover-up or dragged their feet to allow the statute of limitations to expire on prosecutions.  A reluctant whistleblower, Ms. Fleischman is the model for the ethical behavior so devoid in most of the banks and the government agencies charged with protecting Americans.

How much do you want to bet that Eric Holder is going to end up working for his banking friends?

Long-standing Fight over Lake Miller-adjacent Land

June 6th, 2014 at 8:06am

A member of a family who has owned over 100 acres of property in San Diego is pursuing her mission to expose a public corruption scam in which she accuses San Diego City of illegally incorporating her family’s property near Lake Murray  “into a bogus city park and charging the public illegal park usage fees to access our property.”

Merrilee Miller of Goleta sent the San Diego District Attorney’s Office680-word letter indicating the real estate fraud complaint she had filed as of November 2011 to that effect. Although Anthony Samson, the now-former chief of the fraud division had written her “After reviewing your request for investigation, we have concluded that the facts presented indicate there is no basis for further action at this time,” Miller claims Samson told her over the phone that ‘The city is simply playing games with you.’ 

The story of Miller’s and her family’s efforts to reacquire their land were detailed by the San Diego Reader in June 2007 and in several La Mesa Patch stories.

Read the original article in the Times of San Diego.

L.A. Dept. of Building & Safety Inspector Pleads Guilty to Bribe-Taking

February 7th, 2013 at 7:25pm

Note: there are earlier articles/postings in the California Real Estate Fraud Report about the public corruption investigations by federal authorities involving Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety employees.

Samuel In, 65, a 37-year employee of the L.A. Department of Building and Safety, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of felony bribery that was filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The charge stemmed from a 2008 occasion when he accepted a cash bribe of $5,000 he solicited from a Koreatown man who needed assistance from In’s agency. He is the third employee to have been criminally prosecuted in the past two years.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Akrotirianakis, In, who was a senior inspector, admitted taking more than $30,000 of bribes in the area of Koreatown. He used his Korean-language skills and his position of authority to take advantage of Koreans whose English-speaking skills were limited.

Samuel In, who retired in May 2011, just two days after LADBS General Manager Robert “Bud” Ovrom put him on administrative leave, told the L.A. Times “I always sleep with peace” when he first denied taking bribes.

For my part, as a taxpayer, I’d like to see public employees who plead guilty to felony charges of public corruption or are convicted of such, to completely lose their pensions.

I also believe that the investigations by the feds into corruption at the L.A. Department of Building and Safety don’t even begin to scratch the surface of bribe-demanding, bribe-taking, influence-peddling and corruption that have occurred for decades at this agency.

Read the original article in the Los Angeles Times.

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Another Reason Los Angeles is Broke: Appraisal Fraud Inside the County Assessor’s Office

January 3rd, 2013 at 12:36pm

Assessing property taxes accurately is essential to local municipalities being able to plan their budgets into the future.

Short sale fraud is one means by which government is robbed of revenues to which it is entitled.

Now, public employees whose salaries and generous pensions are paid for by taxpayers have invented another way to steal from taxpayers: appraisal fraud.

Scott Schenter, a property appraiser for the Los Angeles County Appraiser’s Office,  was the lowest man on the totem pole arrested in a large-scale public corruption scandal in that office. He has pleaded not guilty to the 60 felony counts with which he has been charged and is probably hoping for the best by squealing to the L.A. District Attorney’s Office against his former boss County Assessor John Noguez, Deputy Assessor Mark McNeil and private tax consultant Ramin Salari. The three men have all been arrested and charged in the case and all have pleaded not guilty.

The L.A. County D.A.’s Office has charged all four with allegedly shaving hundreds of millions of dollars from high-priced properties owned by clients of Ramin Salari. Court records indicate that Scott Schenter, who performed many of the property appraisals, received at minimum $275,000 for his “work.”

According to an interview with Schenter (assuming it was with the L.A. Times) in 2012 this year, Schenter responded to John Noguez’ request to “look into” expensive Westside properties after the latter had campaign debt to pay off in 2010 after being elected for L.A. County Assessor. Schenter then reduced the values of the homes by a whopping $172 million.

The scheme fell apart when Schenter’s supervisor in the Culver City office of the County Assessor discovered the lowered appraisal values.

The Los Angeles Times reported that its review of Schenter’s County emails from 2004 to 2011 following a public records request, showed that most of those emails were not related to his work for the County. As a taxpayer, I think an audit of how Schenter and possibly other County Assessor employees were spending significant amounts of their time on private business that “somehow” escaped the attention of their supervisors, is in order.

The LA Weekly has followed this story closely and published a number of articles.

L.A. County Assessor John Noguez Arrested in Massive Appraisal Fraud Case

October 18th, 2012 at 9:48am

The long-running public corruption investigation into Assessor John Noguez, who runs the L.A. County Assessor’s Office, has culminated in the arrests of Noguez, his head appraiser and a tax consultant for allegedly conspiring to lower tax assessments for expensive commercial and residential properties in exchange for cash and contributions to Noguez’ re-election coffers.

L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley announced the arrests and said “Los Angeles County voters and taxpayers deserve honest, hardworking elected and appointed officials who will serve the best interests of the people. Residents must have confidence that their government is not for sale to the highest bidder or the highest briber.”

If the allegations are found to be true, the people of Los Angeles will have been robbed of millions of dollars in lawfully owed property taxes.

The charges are as follows:

John Noguez, 47, (real name: Juan Renaldo Rodriguez): 24 felony counts, including four counts of accepting bribes; five counts of perjury, two counts of conspiracy; and 13 counts of misappropriation by a public officer; he is being held on $1.385 million bail.

Mark McNeil, 54, head of the Major Appraisal Division; held on $1.16 million bail.

Ramin Salari, 49, a tax consultant and campaign contributor to Noguez; held on $1.36 million bail.

Among other criminal acts, Noguez is accused of taking $185,000 in bribes from Salari between February and September, 2010. Soon thereafter, chief appraiser McNeil attended hearings and reduced the assessed value of properties located in Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach, Torrance and Los Angeles, including the Old Spaghetti Factory.

An L.A. County appraiser for the Westside named Scott Schenter, who worked in the Assessor’s Office from 1988 to 2011, has previously been charged with cutting values on expensive businesses, homes and condominiums in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades, allegedly receiving campaign contributions for Noguez from the property owners.

I sincerely hope that DA Steve Cooley will pursue recovering back taxes, including interest and penalties, from the property owners, as well as re-assessing their properties to market values.

Santos H. Kreimann is acting as Chief Deputy Assessor and running the Assessor’s Office now that John Noguez is out of the picture.

This public corruption case will be prosecuted by Deputy District Attorneys Susan Schwartz and Michele Gilmer.

Read the original article in WeHo News.

Former Los Angeles Housing Authority Official Arrested by FBI

June 23rd, 2012 at 8:01am

The FBI has reached into Guatamela in order to arrest a former construction official with the Los Angeles Housing Authority who, along with his two brothers, was sued by that agency for billing it for construction work that was never performed.

Victor Taracena, a fugitive, worked at the housing authority from 2003 to 2007. He has pleaded not guilty to bribery and conspiracy, although his brothers Diego and Bennett Taracena have entered guilty please and each been sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Diego and Bennett created construction companies and billed the L.A. Housing Authority for the non-existent work, a portion of which was returned as a kick-back to Victor Taracena.

Although the agency’s lawsuit against the Taracenas was successful, no monies have been collected to date.

Read the original article in the Los Angeles Times.

L.A. City Housing Employee Fired for Taking Bribes

October 17th, 2011 at 8:30am

Another Los Angeles City employee has been fired for corruption, but unlike private sector employees who lose their jobs for dishonesty, will nevertheless be able to console herself with her pension.

Eun Chavis, a clerk typist at the Los Angeles Housing Department, was charged in 2010 with 11 felony bribery counts in connection with demanding bribes of at least $43,000  from Korean-American landlords to fix their problems with the City.  For her crimes, Chavis was allowed to plead no contest to just one felony count, spent less than a month in County jail, finished her sentence in the comfort of her home with a monitoring bracelet and retains her $31,056-a-year city pension.

And the City says it is broke . . .

Her husband, Frank Max Chavis, will face five bribery counts of his own if he is ever caught and extradited from South Korea.

On the other hand, at least one of Eun Chavis’ victims has lost his apartment building to foreclosure. Nobody is paying him a $31,056 annuity.

If you are unhappy with the result prosecutors from the L.A. County District Attorney’s  Office got on behalf of their victims – including taxpayers – you are not alone. Lt. Matthew St. Pierre, head of the LAPD Commercial Crimes Division, said that in his opinion, “The punishment didn’t fit the crime.”

Read the original article in the Los Angeles Times.

Second L.A. Building & Safety Inspector Sentenced to Prison

October 6th, 2011 at 8:33am

Forty-nine year-old Hugo Gonzalez, a now-former Los Angeles Building and Safety inspector, has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for demanding and taking bribes. Gonzalez’ co-worker, Raoul Germain, 60, received the same sentence last week.

Gonzalez was was recorded by an undercover FBI investigator as well as a confidential informant, who reported that bribery and corruption at Building and Safety were “systemic.”

U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder required Gonzalez to repay the $9,000 he had taken in bribes related to a construction project in South Los Angeles.

A federal grand jury issued a subpoena in April regarding a dozen Building and Safety employees, including Germain and Gonzalez. The FBI’s investigation is ongoing.

Read the original article in the Los Angeles Times.

L.A. Building & Safety Inspector Sentenced to Prison for Taking Bribes

September 20th, 2011 at 1:43pm

Fired Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety inspector Raoul Germain, who was caught on camera take bribes, has been sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Germain, 60, was one of two inspectors caught after their “supplemental income” activities were reported to the FBI. According to his attorney, German was “remorseful” but uncooperative with the feds, who are still investigating allegations of corruption in Building and Safety. Attorney Steven Cron said Germain’s lack of cooperation was due to fears for his safety, but perhaps another explanation is that Germain didn’t want to bust his buddies.

U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder imposed the full sentence, rejecting Germain’s claim for leniency due to his “age.”

In my opinion, if you’re young enough to break the law, you’re young enough to accept the consequences.

Hugo Gonzalez, another L.A. Building and Safety inspector caught taking bribes, has yet to be sentenced.

The federal corruption investigation of this powerful Los Angeles agency is ongoing.

Read the original article in the Los Angeles Times.

© 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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