California Real Estate Fraud Report

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Archive for July, 2010

Fugitive real estate agent nabbed in Las Vegas

July 30th, 2010 at 9:34am

Guadalupe Ramirez, a former Bakersfield real estate agent who was wanted on a $1 million arrest warrant in alleged mortgage fraud crimes, has been arrested in Las Vegas after trying to find work as a Realtor there. Ramirez’ father, Augustine, aka Agustin, is also wanted on a $1 million arrest warrant and remains a fugitive.

The father-daughter team are being prosecuted by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office for mortgage fraud, in their case for taking kickbacks on $4.1 million of fraudulent loans that defaulted almost as soon as they were funded. Inflated appraisals were also said to be part of the fraud.

The daughter had taken a job about two weeks ago with Exit United Realty in Las Vegas. Apparently, her new employer was unaware their employee was a wanted woman, according to broker Pablo Covarrubias.

Read the full article in the Bakersfield Californian.

California DRE revokes record number of licenses

July 30th, 2010 at 9:12am

Despite budget cuts and staff shortages, California’s Department of Real Estate has been aggressively pursuing real estate professionals who cross the line by revoking 50% more licenses in 2009-2010 (633) than they did in 2006-2007 (394). Since June 30, 2009 more than 886 licensees have had their licenses revoked, received suspension orders or surrendered their licenses rather than face revocation. And the culling of the unethical is continuing, as currently there are 5,400 open investigations.

Per DRE Commission Jeff Davi, “The down turn in the real estate market has uncovered abusive practices which has caused the number of disciplinary actions to rise. “Until recently, loan modification scams were the most problematic, but now we are uncovering schemes that center on short sales. The DRE will continue to vigorously pursue and revoke the licensees of errant operators and get them out of the real estate business.”

Consumers: before hiring a Realtor or a mortgage broker, always check the status of his/her license with the DRE. Click here to read the list of revocations, suspensions, etc. occurring in the past year.

Read the full article in Business Wire.

Sonoma County settles case of same-sex elder abuse

July 30th, 2010 at 8:57am

Note: This is an egregious story that shows not only an abuse of powers by a municipality, but why the separation of church and state is essential to prevent religious zealots from practicing their discriminatory beliefs against those of whom they disapprove. The award to the plaintiffs, in my opinion, is paltry.

Sonomoa County legal representatives have settled a lawsuit filed against the County by Clay Greene and the estate of his deceased domestic partner of 20 years, Harold Scull. Both men had executed wills and mutual powers of attorney for their medical and financial situations and each had named the other as the beneficiary.

In an article published by Civil Rights and Wrongs, the writer claims that after Harold Scull fell in April 2008, “County employees in the Public Guardian’s office separated the couple after Scull fell outside their shared home. In the next three months, County officials ignored the couple’s legal documentation, unlawfully auctioned their possessions, terminated their lease, and forced Greene into an assisted living facility against his will. The County did not consult Greene in Scull’s medical care and prevented the two from seeing one another.”

Scull died in August 2008 after completing a photo album of the couple’s life for Clay Greene; the couple were not reunited before Scull’s passing.

One year later, Clay Greene and Scull’s executor sued Sonoma County officials and other parties claiming elder abuse, elder financial abuse, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and other claims.  The National Center for Lesbian Rights represented both plaintiffs.

Read the full article in Civil Rights and Wrongs.

San Mateo finance manager gets prison

July 26th, 2010 at 10:27am

A San Mateo finance manager who could have received 18 years in prison is breathing easier after receiving a sentence of 71 months for mail fraud, filing a false tax return and false claims against the United States.

Seth Sundberg, 35, was the branch manager for Access Mortgage and Financial in San Mateo and the owner of Sound Mountain Investments in San Carlos a real estate property management and investment company. He had received a $5 million refund from the Internal Revenue Service after falsely claiming to have paid about the same amount in income taxes.

Read the full article in the Daily Journal of San Mateo.

Loan modification scams and foreclosure fraud still big business

July 23rd, 2010 at 11:54am

Randall Guerra heads a non-profit group funded by the government to help distressed homeowners in the Fresno area. He said 8 to 10 homeowners are walking in to his office each walk for help after being ripped off either by foreclosure consultants, loan modification firms or the banks.

Loan modification firms charged upfront fees (now illegal) to borrowers for assistance in negotiating loan modifications. Either the company did nothing for the borrower or took his or her money knowing that the borrower could not qualify for a loan modification.

Sydney Ricks, an attorney who heads the Real Estate Fraud Division of the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office says “There’s a lot of desperation out there and the scam artists are targeting those people knowing there is a lot of anxiety.” Yet, while there is a backload of cases to process, the unit has only one attorney and one investigator.

Read the full article on ABC.

Fannie Mae employees received sweetheart deals from Countrywide VIP Loan Unit

July 23rd, 2010 at 11:27am

The Countrywide VIP Loan Unit, notorious for spreading its largesse to U.S. Senators such as Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and  Senator Kent Conrad. (D-ND), apparently also extended its low-interest loan favors to employees of Fannie Mae, according to an article published online in CBS News that is based on documents released by the House Committee on Oversight.

Information in the documents shows that the number of low-interest loans from Countrywide’s VIP program to Fannie Mae employees spiked on two occasions: first in 1998 as Countrywide was attempting to negotiate a volume discount with Fannie Mae, and then in 2002-2003 as Countrywide was expanding its VIP Loan Unit.

In 1999 Fannie Mae did indeed write an exclusive agreement with Countrywide in which it sold Fannie Mae billions of dollars in mortgages at a volume discount. Coincidentally (or not), Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo extended Fannie Mae CEO Jim Johnson favorable terms on more than $10 million in personal loans.

Republican House Oversight Report on Countrywide’s “Friends of Angelo” Program

Republican House Oversight Report on the Housing Crisis

Read the full article in CBS News, which includes the names and job titles of the many, many Fannie Mae employees whose names have been turned over to investigators as a result of their having received special consideration from the Countrywide VIP Loan Unit.

Man extradited from Thailand, arrested for elder financial abuse

July 23rd, 2010 at 11:05am

Investigators at the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office arrested a man on real estate fraud-related charges who was just extradicted from Thailand.

Ronald Paul Shade, 39, previously a resident of Riverside, is facing 29 counts of elder financial abuse, grand theft, and filing forged documents with the County Recorder’s office. Shade ran Orange Crest Realty; the charges stem from solicitations he made from 2006 to 2008 in which he promised investors high rates of return on their money. In reality, Shade was operating a Ponzi Scheme.

Read the full article in the Highland Community News.

According to another article in the Victorville Daily News, Yachiyo Haney lost her life’s savings after being convinced by Ronald Shade that she would earn money with him.

How much mortgage fraud is there now?

July 23rd, 2010 at 10:53am

Jonathan Lansner of the Orange County Register has put together a very interesting interview with Tim Grace, who is the senior vice-president for fraud analytics at CoreLogic. Corelogic is the vendor for LoanSafe Fraud Manager, mortgage fraud prevention product that uses pattern recognition logic to detect fraud in the behavior of the parties to a transaction.

In the interview, Grace makes some startling statements, such as “In 2005 the worst 3% of the brokers accounted for 100% of the fraud”, referring to mortgage fraud, a claim even I have a hard time believing from a probability standpoint.

On the positive side, Grace believes that because underwriting standards have been tightened (probably where they should have been before the banks got drunk on subprime lending), mortgage fraud has gotten more subtle and difficult to detect but is certainly still an ongoing issue.

Read the full interview with Tim Grace in the Orange County Register, aka OC Register.

Judge sentences Norton to prison for mortgage fraud

July 16th, 2010 at 10:28am

Rollo Richard “Rick” Norton II was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn L. Huff to 24 months in prison for his role in a San Diego mortgage fraud case in which a condominium complex was used in a series of sales and resales to remove equity. Norton, the subject of several posts in the California Real Estate Fraud Report, must also pay restitution.

According to the prosecution, Norton was the investment advisor in Ramona who initially purchased an apartment complex located on Crown Point Drive in San Diego, intending to convert it to condominiums. The project ran awry due to mismanagement, the use of straw buyers, with investors and lending institutions being defrauded by the deceptions of Norton and his co-conspirators, two of whom, Scott Greer and Todd Johnson are awaiting their sentences from U.S. District Judge Huff.

Read the full article in National Mortgage Professional Magazine.

Real estate investors allege fraud in Southern California lawsuit

July 16th, 2010 at 10:08am

Lodi-based Fortuno Inc. is the target of a lawsuit who claim the firm defrauded them out of $1 million by telling them that homes Fortuno bought could be resold easily to make a profit when in reality the homes were either condemned or in need of expensive repairs.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by Andrew Wyatt, alleges, among other charges, that the promoters stated investors would earn 14 – 17 percent annual returns from the homes in Michigan and Ohio. Wyatt further alleges that while the investors lost all of their money, the defendants earned at least 400 percent by selling the properties to the investors.

Also named in the lawsuit were the Real Estate Investors Club of Los Angeles, Sognari International Inc., National Realty Inc. and the officials who ran those business. Phyllis Rockower is the owner of the Real Estate Investors Club of Los Angeles, which earns fees from presenting various investing opportunities to its investors, mostly individuals or couples, in monthly meetings.

William “Bill” Yotty and Barbara Thomas, the owner and senior VP of operations for Fortuno, respectively, were part of PayStar Communications in the early 2000s, which was also sued successfully by investors with similar complaints.  According to Layla Bohm, a writer for the Lodi News Sentinel, Fortuno is still an active business registered with the State of California.

Read the full article in the Lodi News Sentinel.

© 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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