California Real Estate Fraud Report

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Archive for the 'Real Estate Crimes' Category

Century 21 Agents Sued after Flipping Elderly Client’s House

February 3rd, 2018 at 12:03pm

Two Century 21 agents are on the wrong end of a lawsuit after selling the house of a man who had inherited the property from his late father.

The plaintiff is Rosario Lazcano. He listed his father’s home at 1551 East 76th Place with Edrisi Aussenac of Century 21  in September 2016. After a month Aussenac told Lazcano that he only had one offer and that was for 40% less than the $315,00 listed price. He convinced Lazcano to take the offer and sell the home to Gyn Group LLC, whose president is Jorge D. Acuna, also a Century 21 agent. According to the lawsuit, Aussenac didn’t disclose to Lazcano that he and Acuna were colleagues.

Two months later, Aussenac re-listed the property at $399,000 and sold it for $375,000.

Rosario Lazcano‘s lawsuit claims fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and intentional misrepresentation. Pacific Escrow and its owner, who is alleged to be related to the owners of the Century 21 Allstars franchise.

Read the original article in The Real Deal.

Former Fannie Mae Employee Charged in Real Estate Fraud of REO Properties

February 1st, 2018 at 8:25pm

Shirene Hernandez, 45, was one an REO (real estate owned) foreclosure specialist at Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association). Fannie Mae is a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), and its task is insuring mortgage loans.

Hernandez has been charged with wire fraud, allegedly for making directing some of the REO properties she oversaw to real estate brokers for cash kickback, gifts and other valuable things in exchange for giving them listings of the REOs. The common term for this is called REO fraud. The government alleges she earned over $1 million from these alleged illegal activities.

No word if any of the real estate brokers and agents who were Hernandez’ partners have been charged or are going to be.

The case is being investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG).  Agents continue to investigate this case and other allegations of bribes accepted by other Fannie Mae employees.  If you believe you have information relevant to this investigation, please contact FHFA-OIG Senior Special Agent James Shields at 202-730-4013.

The prosecution of Shirene Hernandez is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Kerry L. Quinn of the Major Frauds Section.

Click on this press release to read the entire statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

 

Methuen Real Estate Broker Pleads Guilty to Role in Short Sale Fraud Conspiracy

January 19th, 2018 at 10:10am

Methuen real estate broker Greisy Jimenez, 50, pleaded guilty to participating in a short sale fraud scheme to defraud banks and mortgage companies.

Jimenez is scheduled to be sentenced by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf April 24.

In March 2017, her co-conspirators Jasmin Polanco, 37, a real estate closing attorney, and Vanessa Ricci, 40, a mortgage loan officer, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud; they will also be sentenced in March. Hyacinth Bellerose, 51, a real estate closing attorney, was sentenced last March to time served and one year of supervised release to be served in home detention after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

The defendants began their conspiracy in August 2007 and it continued through June 2010. They submitted false and misleading documents to the lenders in order to induce their to approve the fraudulent short sales. The short sales were not only not arm’s-length but the straw buyers were frequently related. In most cases, the purported sellers never moved out of their properties and in fact, the short sale fraud was intended to provide them with a large reduction in their mortgages, I scheme I call “mortgage laundering.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Frank, chief of the Economic Crimes Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sara Miron Bloom and Victor Wild.

Read the previous post about Greisy Jimenez in the California Real Estate Fraud Report from March 2017.

Roseville Developer Pleads Guilty to Large-Scale Real Estate Fraud

January 18th, 2018 at 12:52pm

Abe Alizadeh, a Roseville real estate developer and fast-food businessman, pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges Friday in connection with a $22 million real estate fraud scheme.

Alizadeh, 59,  confessed to defrauding lenders on six different properties in the Sacramento area between 2005 and 2006. Prosecutors alleged that he had inflated the values of the properties he purchased and the banks had unknowingly lent him $22 million over what was rquied to make he purchases.

Alizadeh was aided in his scheme by Mary Sue Weaver, who was an escrow officer with Placer Title Co. in Roseville. She has already pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud and along with Abe Alizadeh will be sentenced in March.

Read the original article in the Sacramento Bee.

Three Defendants Convicted by Federal Jury in Modesto Mortgage Fraud Scheme

January 5th, 2018 at 10:51am

Three people were convicted of operating a mortgage fraud scheme involving 14 Northern California houses located in Modesto, Patterson and Stockton.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento said that Surjit Singh, 71, of Dublin, and his son, Rajeshwar Singh, 43, of Pleasanton, each were found guilty of four counts of mail fraud, four counts of bank fraud, and four counts of false statements on loan and credit applications. The third person, Anita Sharma, 55, of Gilroy, was convicted of two counts of mail fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and two counts of making false statements on loan and credit applications.

The elder Singh recruited people with good credit to act as “straw buyers” for residential properties owned by his relatives and others. The straw buyers were the people who lied in their loan applications included about their income, employment, liabilities and intent to live in the homes as their primary residences. His son, who at the time was a licensed real estate agent, submitted loan applications on behalf of the straw buyers, according to prosecutors.

Anita Sharma was one of the straw buyers.

Note: This is the first time in 10 years that the California Real Estate Fraud Report has been able to report a prosecution of a straw buyer.

Sharma, who was a dental assistant, could not afford to purchase the five homes she did that were located in Modesto, San Jose, San Ramon, Elk Grove and Sacramento.

The homes were later either foreclosed upon or sold in short sales.

To learn how these defendants benefited by the mortgage fraud-related crimes, read the original article in the Modesto Bee.

Massachusetts Attorney Has License Suspended after Fraud Conviction

December 29th, 2017 at 12:16pm

 

Massachusetts’ Board of Bar Overseers has suspended the license of Jasmin Polanco, who pleaded guilty this year for a federal mortgage fraud charge, specifically, conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Polanco, 37, was a real estate closing attorney in the Greater Lawrence area, was one of several individuals who pleaded guilty in connection with a “sweeping conspiracy to defraud banks and mortgage companies by engaging in sham short sales of residential properties in the Merrimack Valley,” according to the Department of Justice.

In this case, fraudulent short sales were conducted in which the lenders were duped into approving short sales, yet the remained in their homes, their mortgages substantially reduced.

Imprisonment, fines and restitution in Polanco’s case have yet to be determined for Polanco, as well as for Vanessa Ricci, 40, a mortgage loan officer who pleaded guilty to the same charge as Jasmin Polanco.

According to federal charging documents:

– The conspirators falsely led banks to believe that the sales were arms-length transactions between unrelated parties, when in fact, the transactions were not arms-length; the buyers and sellers were frequently related and the sellers retained control of (and frequently continued to live in) the properties after the sale;

– The conspirators submitted phony earnings statements in support of loan applications that they submitted to banks in order to obtain financing for the purported sales.

Read the original article in the Eagle-Tribune and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.

Watch Out for Scams Following California Wildfires

December 29th, 2017 at 12:01pm

As many readers know, con artists and scammers follow natural disasters with phony non-profits and fraudulent solicitations to help disaster victims.

Chuck Hughes, chief deputy district attorney for the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, is warning the public that his office has received a number of fraud reports connected to the Thomas Fire. The complaints have to do with price gouging within the disaster zone, fake GoFundMe accounts soliciting donations for fire victims, phony repair companies offering to do cleanup work, unlicensed contractors, and other con games.

The Camarillo Acorn has published the following information for members of the public who wish to help:

On Dec. 15, officials at United Way of Santa Barbara County and United Way of Ventura County announced the creation of a joint fund to directly help individuals and families affected by the fire in both counties. Donating to the fund is the best way to help victims, said Eric Harrison, CEO of United Way of Ventura County.

“The United Way Thomas Fire Fund is the only fund that’s officially recognized by the (Ventura County) Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services and the Red Cross,” Harrison said.

As of Dec. 18, the fund had raised $2.25 million, all of which will go to fire victims, officials said in a news release.

To be sure money gets to fire victims, people can make donations at unitedwaythomasfirefund.orgunitedwaysb.org and vcunitedway.org, or by phone at (805) 485-6288.

Checks can be mailed to United Way of Ventura County, 702 County Square Drive, Ste. 100, Ventura, CA, 93003. Write “Thomas Fire Fund” in the memo line.

Chatsworth Father and Daughter Convicted in $30 Million Family-Owned Mortgage Relief Fraud Scheme

December 15th, 2017 at 9:17am

Jamie Matsuba, 33, and Thomas Matsuba, 67, were found guilty in Los Angeles federal court of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements to federally insured banks and committing identity theft, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. They were also convicted of one count of making false statements to federally insured banks.

Dorothy Matsuba, 66, of Chatsworth, who is the mother of Jamie Matsuba and Thomas Matsuba‘s wife, and their daughter, Jane Matsuba-Garcia, 41, of Camarillo, both previously pleaded guilty. A fifth defendant, Young Park, of Los Angeles, is a fugitive.

Dorothy MatsubaJamie Matsuba, and Jane Matsuba all hold either current or expired licenses with the California Bureau of Real Estate.

The family ran business named Ownership Management Service LLC and Trust Holding Service LLC from January 2005 to August 2014. The companies promised homeowners get help for distressed homeowners by doing short sales with the lenders. The homeowners were told to deed their homes to trust controlled by the Matsubas, who further promised the homeowners they would pay their mortgages during the negotiation period with the banks.

Read the original article in SatPRNews and MyNewsLA.com

 

Authorities Warn of Con Artists and Scams Targeting Victims of Thomas Fire

December 15th, 2017 at 9:06am

The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office is warning residents to be on the watch for price gouging after the inception of the Thomas Fire, now the fourth-largest blaze in California’s recorded history.

Deputy District Attorney Brian Rafelson reported that the District Attorney’s Office has received complaints about price gouging for housing and gas. They have set up a hotline dedicated to fielding these calls, which is 805-662-1728.

The latest scheme involves con artists posing as insurance agents and promising affected residents “expedited” insurance coverage or pay-outs in exchange for a deductible increase.

Read the original article in the Ventura County Star.

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.

© 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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