California Real Estate Fraud Report

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Archive for the 'Title Fraud' Category

Man Charged with Stealing Identities, Forging Real Estate Documents

September 14th, 2017 at 12:31pm

Vu Hoang Ho has been charged the the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office with stealing the identities of deceased persons or “living elderly victims.” He allegedly forged their names on real estate documents and recorded them with the L.A. County Recorder’s Office so that he could acquire them (title fraud), says the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.

Ho then tried to re-sell the properties to buyers who were unaware of what had transpired.

The case was investigated by the Real Estate Fraud Unit of the Sheriff’s Fraud & Cyber Crimes Bureau.

Read the original article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and MyNewsLA.com.

Lafayette Real Estate Agent Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud, Money Laundering

July 25th, 2017 at 9:42am

Real estate agent Robert Jacobsen, 69, pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges related to a complex scheme in which he fraudulently obtained the title to homes (title fraud) and then resold them at market prices.

Federal prosecutors said that Jacobsen pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering by setting up “sham companies” and lawsuits to falsely make it appear that mortgage liens connected to two homes were invalidated.

“Jacobsen admitted that two homes that were the subjects of such lawsuits were in Danville, Calif., and San Francisco, Calif.  Jacobsen admitted that, after obtaining fraudulent judgments, he sold the Danville home for $540,000 and the San Francisco home for $1.2 million.  Jacobsen admitted that in both cases, his representations regarding the fraudulent court judgments had a natural tendency to influence the buyers to purchase the homes.”

Read the press release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.

San Mateo County Gets Aggressive in Chasing Real Estate Fraud, Mortgage Fraud

May 5th, 2017 at 9:24am

According to the San Mateo Daily Journal, the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office is going to be aggressively investigating people attempting to take out fraudulent liens on a property (title fraud), trying to con the elderly out of their homes (elder financial abuse, elder financial fraud) or anyone falsifying real estate documents.

With a new $3 document recording fee and property values rising, the County Board of Supervisors set up a Real Estate Fraud Prosecution Trust Fund that will be used to investigate criminals.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe and his office have received almost 300 complaints of real estate fraud since 2014.

Rancho Cucamonga Man Who Fraudulently Sold Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Properties Sentenced

November 11th, 2016 at 12:25pm

Mazen Alzoubi, 33, a real estate investor who authorities described as being the ringleader of a Southern California scheme that defrauded banks and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was sentenced in San Diego federal court Monday to six years, three months in prison.

According to prosecutors in the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Southern District of California, Alzoubi stole home titles from the rightful corporate owners and then sold them to unsuspecting buyers (title fraud). He did this by forging documents to make it seem the properties had been sold to one of his businesses and then he recorded the bogus documents at various county recorders’ offices, “earning” $2.2 million from the mortgage fraud.

Alzoubi pleaded guilty in January to five counts including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to launder money.

“The strength of our housing market and public confidence in our economy depends on strong enforcement efforts to root out schemes like this,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement. “The lengthy sentence in this case is a loud, clear message to anyone inclined to prey on the fallout from the devastating economic meltdown.”

Read the original article in the San Diego Tribune.

 

Two Men Plead Guilty to Defrauding Lenders of $33.6 Million in Novel Scheme

May 20th, 2016 at 10:14am

Coronado businessman Courtland Gettel and Arizona attorney Jeffrey Greenberg have pleaded guilty to raking in over $33.6 million by taking out fraudulent loans on expensive homes in Del Mar and La Jolla, according to federal prosecutors.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Diego, Gettel, 42, and Greenberg, 66,  took out loans against as many as eight homes by then pretending previous loans had been paid off in order to secure more loans from new lenders. The new lenders were tricked by forged loan reconveyances that indicated that the homes were lien-free and then recorded the fraudulent documents  at the San Diego County Recorder’s Office (title fraud).  Because title was clouded as a result, when the men defaulted on the loans, there was confusion as to the secured interests of the lenders in the properties.

The names of the firms run by Courtland Gettel were Conix, Inc. and Variant Commercial Real Estate — VCRE.

Read the original article in the Coronado Patch.

 

 

 

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.

Victims in San Diego foreclosure fraud case get $800,000

July 9th, 2015 at 10:43am

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced that it has obtained more than $800,000 in restitution for 121 victims of a foreclosure fraud operated by William Hutchings.

The case, which was prosecuted in 2009, consisted of 10 defendants. Hutchings was convicted of 160 felony charges and the remaining defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft-related charges.

The defendants acquired over 400 grant deeds to residences in foreclosure by telling their victims that their “federal land grant program” would keep lenders from foreclosing. In addition to getting title, the defendants also charged the homeowners a $10,000 payment to participate in their program.

Read the original article in San Diego 6.

Woman pleads guilty in Oxnard title fraud case

June 2nd, 2015 at 9:17am

Gina Marie Hernandez, 37, has pleaded guilty to recording a false document in order to help a friend make bail.

According to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, recording a fraudulent document that encumbered an Oxnard residence as collateral for her friend Hayser Scarlett Lopez, 46. Lopez fled the country once she was granted bail but returned later.

Peggy Ann Soto, 55, was recruited by Hernandez to execute a phony power of attorney and to impersonate the Oxnard homeowner at Lopez’ bail hearing in Kern County Superior Court.

Read the original article in the Ventura County Star.

 

New program by Solano County District Attorney to make stealing homes more difficult

May 27th, 2015 at 8:41am

The Solano County District Attorney’s Office has developed a new programr that seeks to prevent theft of a person’s home by fraudsters (title fraud).

The Real Estate Fraud Notification will electronically scan documents in the Assessor/Recorder’s Office that would transfer title in any manner, then mail a letter to the person paying the property taxes with a copy of the recorded document to alert them. If that person is unaware of the transaction resulting in the recorded document, they should contact the District Attorney’s Office.

Read the original article in The Reporter.

Detroit homes at risk from tax liens – homeowners fight back

April 8th, 2015 at 9:07am

Although this story originates in Detroit, it is instructive as to this kind of potential real estate actions against homes occurring in every state.

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner says “It’s theft,” in describing how operators set up corporate names and find homes that are behind on tax payments. They pay some of the past-due property taxes, then foreclose and put the homes up for auction. So far, at least 50 homes have had their ownership status put into jeopardy by these actions.

Meisner further said that this is a repeat of a scam that occurred in Wayne County 10 years ago. “Our system of property rights in this country is a very basic underpinning of our society,” he said. “Senior citizens, people with disabilities, some of the more vulnerable are really, really at risk.”

One military veteran managed to save his home that Consolidated Brokers’ Pool was trying to take title to through the court system.  He was fortunate in that Oakland County Clerk and Register of Deeds Lisa Brown and other County officials persuaded Oakland County Circuit Judge Nanci Grant to rule against Consolidated. Lisa Brown was quoted as saying “They are stealing homes. They’re committing a fraud on the court.” (Photo: Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press) And “Consolidated Brokers’ Pool LLC accrued NO legal interest in the subject property.”

Consolidated Brokers’ Pool is owned by Sherman Pegross, a 45-year old Detroit man who has  served time in federal prison and has a criminal record of arrests and convictions for theft, credit card fraud and other offenses.

Other homeowners are fighting the liens placed against their homes, many by Consolidated or other entities operated by Pegross. Yet to date, nobody has been charged with a crime.

For his part, Pegross says, “The treasurer likes to make me out to be the monster simply because he doesn’t want me to do what I’m doing because sometimes I help myself, sometimes I help the (homeowner). But when I help myself or that person, it means he didn’t sell it at auction. He’s mad about that.”

In the meantime, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette published an opinion last year that anyone paying taxes on a property he or she doesn’t own is simply making a gift and earns no rights to the property.

Read the original article in the Detroit Free Press.

© 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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