California Real Estate Fraud Report

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Archive for March, 2011

Barry Minkow – Once a Crook, Still a Crook

March 25th, 2011 at 9:05am

Barry Minkow, who gained notoriety as a 16 year-old precocious founder of the ZZZZ Best Carpet Cleaning company in the 1980s that was nothing more than a Ponzi scheme.

Now his attorney Alvin Entin has revealed that Minkow has reached an “agreement in principle” with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and will be pleading guilty to one count of trading on non-public information (insider trading). Hopefully he will receive and (fully) serve the possible five year sentence. Minkow is making this plea even though he has not been charged.

Barry Minkow was sentenced to 25 years in prison for 57 counts of fraud in ZZZZ Best. After his unfortunate early release, the born-again Minkow became a pastor at Community Bible Church in San Diego and founded the Fraud Discovery Institute, supposedly to catch people like himself. Minkow was accused of using the Fraud Discovery Institute to post articles on his web site about publicly traded firms he was “investigating” , then purchase options that he would short. The firm in question was Lennar Corp., a Miami-based home builder.

Read the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Santa Cruz Woman Charged in Prolific Real Estate Investment Fraud

March 25th, 2011 at 8:51am

Tara Denis Bonelli, 31, has been arrested by the FBI and charged by a federal grand jury of 18 counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, and three counts of money laundering.

Bonelli owned and operated up to 10 firms that constituted a one-stop shop in real estate: everything from investing to foreclosure assistance. According to the indictment, she used several properties she owned as collateral to solicit investors for non-existent real estate property purchases. Just as noxious, she hired persons to door-knock homeowners in distress and amazingly convinced some of them to sign blank real estate contracts.

Read the original article in RealEstateRama.

Real Estate Fraud Charges Against Mountain View Investment Company

March 25th, 2011 at 8:39am

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed charges against Mountain View-based JSW and five of its officers. The officers are accused in a $17 million real estate investment fraud scam in which investors’ monies were diverted to fund the officers’ own real estate investments.

The named firms are JSW and its predecessor, Jim Ward & Associates, Blue Chip Realty Fund and Shoreline Investment Fund.

The defendants are JSW founder James Ward, 64, of Delaware, Ohio; former Jim Ward & Associates president David Lee 53, (Los Altos); former JSW president Edward Locker, 35 (Highland Heights, Ohio); former JSW vice president Richard Tipton, 60 (Palo Alto); and JSW general counsel David Lin, 42 (Los Altos).

May of the victims-investors are seniors (elder financial fraud).

Read the original article in the Silicon Valley Mercury News.

Convenience Store Clerk Sentenced for Mortgage Fraud

March 18th, 2011 at 11:01am

Juan Banales Venegas, 24, an Oxnard man who was arrested in a mortgage fraud case, has been sentenced to just under four years in prison and ordered by Judge Manuel Real pay $913,325 in restitution to the lenders he defrauded.

Banales Venegas, aka “Chicken Little,” was hired to work as an unlicensed assistant for real estate in 2006 at Century 21 Premier Real Estate. Maria del Rocio Partida is a licensed real estate broker who runs Century 21 Premier Real Estate in Oxnard. Maria Del Rocio Partida, Miriam Sukey Estrada, Adela Naranjo (both of Platinum Power Mortgage in Oxnard) all were also indicted in the same case and each woman pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud.

Banales Venegas was paid commissions for selling homes, something that is a licensed activity. He also lied on loan applications in order to buy residential properties, all of which subsequently were foreclosed.

Read the original article in the Ventura County Star.

Former Irvine Planning Commissioner Accused in Real Estate Fraud

March 18th, 2011 at 10:36am

A real estate broker who was formerly a member of the Irvine Planning Commission is being sued by a married couple, a high school friend and a father and son who say he solicited money from them for real estate investments he never made.

David R. Sparks, 50, is a long-time broker and owns Irvine-based firm Sparks Realty & Investment Inc. The couple, Marc Vaccaro and Astrid Vanzon, say Sparks flew out to Wisconsin to meet them and “talked about his religious faith, and shared values in a Christian tradition, which added to (their) belief in defendant’s trustworthiness,” according to their federal lawsuit, which accuses Sparks of  forging bank and government documents and using nonexistent escrow companies to commit fraud. They are claiming $1.6 million in damages.

Robert Edwin Anslow of Santa Ana is the now-former friend who is suing David Sparks. Gary Schultz and his father Gerhard Schultz have also filed suit against Sparks. All the parties claim that Sparks solicited money from them for real estate investments that were not made (real estate investment fraud).

Here is David Spark’s website for Sparks Realty & Investments, Inc.

Note: the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) does not show any actions taken against David Spark’s real estate license.

Read the original article in the OCRegister / Orange County Register.

Elder Financial Fraud Case May Extend to Sheriff’s Employee

March 18th, 2011 at 10:14am

An senior citizen who contacted the Kern County Sheriff’s Department for investigation of elder financial fraud / elder financial abuse may have been victimized a second by the sergeant sent out to take her statement.

Gloria Moody, who went to live with her daughter Donna after she became ill, alleged that Donna embezzled money from her after Gloria gave her access to her bank account in order to pay her bills. Donna also tried to take her mother’s house and car according to Gloria, but she retained an attorney and got her house back.

Where Moody may have been re-victimized is that when Kern County Sheriff’s Department deputies came out to take her statement, Sgt. Vince Martinez became smitten with Donna’s 23 year-old daughter and immediately began dating her. Moody claims that Sgt. Martinez subsequently tried to discourage her from pursuing her case and showed little interest in helping her.

Sgt. Vince Martinez is on paid administrative leave while being investigated for obstruction of justice and falsification of reports, says Sheriff Donny Youngblood.

Read the full article in the Bakersfield Californian.

Lawsuit Alleges Fraud by Westlake Village Attorney and Business Partner

March 15th, 2011 at 11:22pm

A lawsuit filed by a Westlake Village attorney against another Westlake Village attorney and his Agoura Hills partner alleges the two men perpetrated a multi-state real estate loan scam.

Attorney Anne Singer is representing Gerard Kennedy, who paid 27 year old Nicolaus Skultety, owner of the now defunct American Paramount Financial, and his attorney Lloyd Michaelson of Lloyd Michaelson Law Offices a $300,000 deposit in order to obtain a $15 million loan that never materialized. Kennedy, owner of the Virginia-based Attiva Corporation, Inc. lost his deposit. Kennedy’s lawsuit charges Skultety and Michaelson  with fraud, breach of contract and negligent representation.

According to an article in the Acorn, Skultety and Michaelson are accused of promising clients they could obtain funding for land and construction projects – considered risk investments – in exchange for “a percentage of the loan amount, generally a 2% cut.” The cash fees were paid through Skultety’s firm but the loans were never made.

Interestingly, Singer read on a blog that Michaelson and Skultety had allegedly defrauded many victims and reported them to the FBI and other federal agencies. “I’m willing to put money down that (Skultety and Michaelson) will be indicted,” Singer said.

Read the original article in the Thousand Oaks Acorn.

Thousand Oaks Man Sentenced for Real Estate Fraud

March 15th, 2011 at 11:04pm

Thousand Oaks resident Enrique Sandoval Martinez, 46, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for real estate fraud. He was convicted by a jury of making a false financial statement, grand theft, money laundering, fraud and three counts of causing a false instrument to be recorded (title fraud). 

Martinez, using a false identity, convinced a victim to invest $788,000 with him, which he used along with falsified loan documents (loan fraud, mortgage fraud) to receive a loan from Washington Mutual to purchase a multi-million dollar home in Moorpark.

Judge Patricia Murphy imposed the maximum sentence after noting that Enrique Martinez had fled the U.S. to Mexico (then stupidly tried to re-enter), sophistication of his crimes and a lack of remorse.

Read the original article in the Thousand Oaks Acorn.

Stewart Title Settles with Kelly Gearhart Investors

March 15th, 2011 at 10:54pm

Stewart Title has settled a lawsuit filed by investors of bankrupt North County developer Kelly Gearhart. Stewart Title was sued by 300 of Gearhart’s investors by the law firm of Kirby, Noonan, Lance and Hoge, which accused it of conspiring with Gearhart and Hurst Financial, Inc. to defraud the investors in a real estate investment fraud scheme. The plaintiffs will receive approximately 27% of their investments.

Kelly Gearhart, who no longer lives in California, is the subject of a federal investigation into racketeering, money laundering and mail fraud, as is Jay Miller, the president of Hurst Financial. According to Cal Coast News, more than 1,200 investors, many of them elderly, invested more than $100 million with Hurst Financial that cannot be found.

Read the original article in the Cal Coast News. You can also read more details in earlier postings of the California Real Estate Fraud Report.

5 Convicted of Mortgage Fraud in Northern California

March 15th, 2011 at 10:37pm

Doris Anyanwu and her husband, Hyacinth Udeh, of San Ramon, have been convicted of committing mortgage fraud (loan fraud) for receiving approximately $4 million in loans after filing fraudulent loan applications. The native Nigerians were employed by Andrew Ashiegbu and his wife Linda Ashiegbu (Doris Anyanwu’s sister), who owned New Era Mortgage and Realty in Union City. The Ashiegbu’s business partner Ursula Ogamba, co-owned a branch of EZ Mortgage Realty in Tracy.

Andrew and Linda Ashiegbu had earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering. Ursula Ogamba  pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud and to making false statements to the grand jury. All three are awaiting sentencing.

Andrew Ashiegbu is a licensed real estate broker. The DRE shows no investigations, suspensions or other actions against his license. The DRE also shows no actions against Linda Ashiegbu or Ursula Ogamba.

Read the original article in LoanSafe.org and the San Jose Mercury News. You can also read the press release by the US Department of Justice, Northern District.

© 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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