California Real Estate Fraud Report

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Archive for the 'Title Fraud' Category

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.

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.

© 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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