California Real Estate Fraud Report

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Archive for June, 2012

Three Men Indicted for Falsifying Loan Docs

June 29th, 2012 at 8:58am

Los Gatos developer Muhammad Safadi, his nephew Scott Safadi and real estate broker Raquel Ramirez are in hot water: all three  have been indicted by a federal grand jury for bank fraud, conspiracy and making false statements to lenders, ultimately defrauding them of $5.5 million.

The charges are the result of an IRS investigation, accuses the Safadis, who owned Focus Construction, of building homes and then selling them to buyers who they knew were not qualified. In order to facilitate the loans, they submitted phony income and other documents to the lenders. The two men made over $4.5 million on their transactions, while Ramirez earned $230,000.

Read the original article in the San Jose Mercury News.

Alameda Judge Charged in Elder Theft Denies Charges

June 29th, 2012 at 8:41am

Paul Seeman, the Alameda County judge who has been charged with stealing from his now-deceased elderly neighbor, denied in court papers that he acted inproperly and unethically, saying instead he was “just trying to be helpful.

Seeman, 57, has pleaded not guilty to one count of elder theft (elder financial abuse) and 11 counts of perjury, and an enhancements alleging that he stole at least $200,000 from Anne Nutting, his neighbor. He on $525,000 bail and has been reassigned to small claims cases while awaiting trial.

Prosecutors accuse Seeman of befriending Nutting, 97, after her husband died in 1999, getting power-of-attorney, stealing her property and neglecting to repay a $250,000 loan. He is also accused of barring her from her own house from 1999 to 2007, the year she died.

Neighbors are defending Judge Seeman. But Howard Abelson, who was Ms. Nutting’s attorney and who turned him into police, said he did so because he had seen “conduct that I thought potentially was not proper.”

Read the original article in SFGate (San Francisco Chronicle).

Fresno Woman Off to Prison for Role in Marijuana Grow House Mortgage Fraud

June 29th, 2012 at 8:16am

One of seven criminals who defrauded lenders in order to acquire properties for the purpose of growing marijuana has been ordered to prison.

Jenny Chi Ha, aka Phuong A. Ha, 44, of Fresno, was sentenced to 21 months and five years of supervised release for her participation in the acquisition of two of the homes, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner. U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill, who pronounced the sentence, also ordered Ms. Ha to make financial restitution to the lender. Ha was a card dealer who submitted false information to the lenders (loan fraud, mortgage fraud) so that she could acquire the loans.

Law enforcement seized 3,600 pounds of marijuana during their investigation.

The six other defendants already pleaded guilty. They are Xi A. “Andy” Lieng, 43; brothers Tony Lieng, 38, and Richard Lieng, 29; Lynn Truong, 40; and Shirley Wong, 40. Monique Le Nguyen, aka Monique Dzung Le, 62, was the mortgage broker for five properties and she surrendered her real estate license in addition to having already served her prison sentence.

All in all, a good day for law enforcement: 7 convictions, 7 prison sentences and restitution to the banks.

Read the original article in the Central Valley Business Times.

Former Los Angeles Housing Authority Official Arrested by FBI

June 23rd, 2012 at 8:01am

The FBI has reached into Guatamela in order to arrest a former construction official with the Los Angeles Housing Authority who, along with his two brothers, was sued by that agency for billing it for construction work that was never performed.

Victor Taracena, a fugitive, worked at the housing authority from 2003 to 2007. He has pleaded not guilty to bribery and conspiracy, although his brothers Diego and Bennett Taracena have entered guilty please and each been sentenced to 21 months in prison.

Diego and Bennett created construction companies and billed the L.A. Housing Authority for the non-existent work, a portion of which was returned as a kick-back to Victor Taracena.

Although the agency’s lawsuit against the Taracenas was successful, no monies have been collected to date.

Read the original article in the Los Angeles Times.

Authorities Seek Victims in Real Estate Fraud

June 22nd, 2012 at 9:04am

The Placer County Sheriff’s Department is looking for victims of a Meadow Vista man they have arrested in a real estate fraud matter.

William Frank Lordier, 54, was arrested earlier this week on suspicion of felony grand theft. Victims told detectives that he advertised timeshares on Craig’s List and convinced them to give him their bank account information, which he used to withdraw money for his own use. Lordier once was a licensed real estate salesperson with the California Department of Real Estate but his license expired in 2011.

The alleged victims live in Los Angeles and Nevada counties and also in Oregon and Washington state.

If you feel you have been victimized by Lordier, please call Detective Jason Doolittle at (530) 889-7844.

Read the original article in the Sacramento Bee.

San Francisco Man Sentenced for $28 million Real Estate Fraud

June 22nd, 2012 at 8:51am

A San Francisco-area man who claimed to be a real estate developer but instead defrauded his investors out of over $28 million, (real estate investment fraud) is on his way to prison.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer imposed a 6 1/2-year prison sentence on Maher Muhawieh, 32, following Muhawieh’s guilty plea to wire fraud. Judge Breyer has yet to determine the amount of restitution Muhawieh must pay his victims, which included family members and friends.

There is no evidence that Maher Muhawieh used the monies entrusted to him for anything other than his personal use.

Read the original article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Three Indicted in Los Angeles for Short Sale Fraud Scheme Using Phony Bank Approvals

June 21st, 2012 at 2:56pm

Dear Readers,

There have been a number of articles in the media in the past week about three people who have been arrested for running a conspiracy to defraud banks and investors by engaging in a unique form of short sale fraud. Unfortunately, while the articles have shown the photos of the defendants and some of their alleged ill-gotten gains, they do not adequately describe the wrongdoing of which the defendants are accused.

So . . . here it is, my own abstract, prepared especially for law enforcement who are working real estate fraud cases outside the jurisdiction of this one and would like to catch up on current crime patterns.

Ahmed Tariq Asghari, 32, of Sherman Oaks; Kenneth Moore, 49, of Tustin; and Atiqullah Nabizada, 29, of Coto de Caza have been indicted for running a short sale fraud operation that may have defrauded the victims of as much as $10 million. According to the FBI Press Release, Nabizada and Moore were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and Asghari, has been charged with attempted bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and causing an act to be done. If convicted, the men could each face lengthy prison sentences.

The schemes were carried out in Los Angeles County and to date involved at least six residential properties.

Search warrants were executed last week at locations in Orange County and Los Angeles County.

Here is how the crimes were committed, according to the search warrants:

Nabizada told a witness (referred to in the search warrants as the “Cooperator”) that he had an inside contact at Bank of America who, in exchange for a bribe, would approve short sales for well-below fair-market value. The Cooperator then told Asghari of the scheme and offered to bring him into it if Asghari would find investors or even straw buyers who would pay fair-market value for the properties.

Nabizada apparently had no such insider willing to approve short sales for below-market value at Bank of America; instead, he merely produced forged documents himself. These documents would be presented to escrow, which in many cases, was handled by Jackie Burchell, who worked at Point Break Escrow (PBE) in Costa Mesa. The title company would wire the funds, issue and record the new title policy and escrow would be closed. The property, which had clear title, would then be resold to an unsuspecting buyer. In the meantime, Bank of America would return the wired funds, stating it had not approved the short sale. The buyer would be left holding title to a property for which the original liens by Bank of America and perhaps a subordinate lien holder were still in place and in force.

According to the search warrant, Burchell has acknowledged being aware that she was working on behalf of Nabizada and Asghari by “concealing documents and producing and/or knowingly transmitting fraudulent documents,” that she concealed payments to both men and produced fraudulent HUD-1 statements.

This complicated case was investigated jointly by the FBI, the Secret Service, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  André Birotte Jr, the United States Attorney in Los Angeles, announced that his office will be prosecuting the defendants; the lead prosecutor is Ariel Neuman.

Tariq Asghari’s office, where one of the search warrants was executed, is located at 18850 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, California.

Click here to get the search warrant for Tarzana, and click here to read the Orange County search warrant.

Update:

On January 9, 2013, Jackie Burchell was arrested and charged in connection with another real estate fraud scheme, according to an FBI Press Release. She was barred from any employment in an escrow agency as a result of an administrative enforcment action taken by the California Department of Business Oversight (formerly California Department of Corporations) in November 2012.

Alameda County Judge Arrested for Elder Financial Abuse, Perjury

June 20th, 2012 at 8:39am

A respected judge who graduated from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law more than 30 years ago has been arrested and charged with elder financial abuse (elder financial fraud) and perjury with respect to a 97-year old woman.

While colleagues and neighbors are having a hard time believing the charges against him, prosecutors claim that Judge Paul Daniel Seeman “waged  a 12-year campaign” to gain control over the assets of the late Anne Nutting. They have introduced documents purporting to show that after he gained power of attorney, Judge Seeman sold two of Nutting’s properties in Santa Cruz, her stamp and coin collection and her Lionel train set. Nutting also loaned Judge Seeman $250,000 for which he defaulted on the payments until after Berkeley Police contacted him.

The perjury charges (11 counts) occurred because Judge Seeman allegedly did not disclose his financial gains as required by law.

Ali Mehrizi, 53, who was Anne Nutting’s husband and is the trustee of her estate, is not considered a suspect, according to Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan.

Read the original article in the Marin Independent Journal.

Mortgage Fraud Grand Jury Bill Passes out of Assembly Public Safety Committee

June 19th, 2012 at 1:45pm

SACRAMENTO — Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the Assembly Public Safety Committee passed an important piece of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights that aims to protect California homeowners from fraud and scams.
Senate Bill 1474 (Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley) would allow Attorney General Harris to convene a special grand jury to investigate and indict the perpetrators of financial crimes involving victims in more than one county, as well as crimes conducted by a single defendant or multiple defendants who worked together. The bill passed unanimously with bipartisan support.

Under current law, fraud in which the victims are located across the state require separate grand juries and charges must be filed in every county where the defendant committed a crime. This legislation would provide for the option of a special grand jury that can produce indictments for financial crimes beyond the scope of single-county grand juries.

“Scammers continue to prey on vulnerable Californians who simply want to stay in their homes,” Attorney General Harris said. “This legislation will create a more cohesive legal process to prosecute those who prey on Californians across county lines.”
“The Attorney General is currently engaged in the investigation of significant crimes,” Senator Hancock said. “Unfortunately, county-by-county grand juries do not work well in dealing with large-scale wrongdoing in multiple jurisdictions. With this bill, the Attorney General can investigate multijurisdictional crimes – it will provide protection when Californians need it the most.”

The Mortgage Fraud Strike Force, established by Attorney General Harris, investigates and prosecutes crimes related to mortgages, foreclosures and real estate. In recent weeks, the Strike Force has secured the conviction of perpetrators of scams in the Fresno and Sacramento areas.

SB 1474 will be heard next in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

For more information on the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, go to www.oag.ca.gov.

FINALLY! – California Real Estate Agent Convicted of Short Sale Fraud

June 18th, 2012 at 11:22am

Up until this posting, there was only one case in the entire nation of which I was aware in which a real estate agent was convicted of short sale fraud. Please read below for the press release from the California Department of Real Estate, in which the DRE announced that a Realtor® has now been convicted in California.

Real Estate Agent Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Real Estate Fraud in Connection with Short Sale Transaction

Felony conviction leads to jail time and license surrender

After an extensive investigation by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) and the Office of the California Attorney General (AG), real estate salesperson Matthew Wayne Stewart pled guilty to conspiracy to commit real estate fraud stemming from his actions in two short sale transactions.                                                                                                                                   

“This case should be a warning to all licensees involved in short sale fraud”, stated Bill Moran, DRE’s enforcement chief. “Such fraud by real estate licensees will not be tolerated and the DRE will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to ensure unscrupulous operators are punished to the full extent of the law.”

In October 2010, the DRE filed an action against Stewart accusing him, among other things, of receiving illegal secret profits in two separate short sale transactions. Specifically, Stewart was accused of entering into two separate short sale listing agreements wherein the allowable compensation to be paid to the licensees could not exceed 7% of the sales price.  However, Stewart was accused of exceeding the compensation limitation by requiring the buyers to pay an additional 3% short sale negotiation fee, a fee that was concealed and not disclosed to the lenders or sellers.

The case was referred to the AG’s Mortgage Fraud Strike Force, established by Attorney General Kamala Harris in May 2011 to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud.  On December 28, 2011 the AG filed felony charges against Stewart for defrauding buyers and sellers in short sale transactions in Placer and Nevada counties.  On April 18, 2012, Stewart pled guilty to conspiracy to commit real estate fraud stemming from the above transactions wherein Stewart “fraudulently collected two short sale fees to which he was not lawfully entitled…”  As part of the plea, Stewart was required to surrender his real estate license, serve 90 days in jail, pay restitution of approximately $25,000, and be on formal probation for three years.  On June 12, 2012, Stewart’s voluntary license surrender became effective.

Given current market conditions and the large number of financially distressed homeowners, the potential for short sale fraud is huge. Short sale fraud takes many forms and all forms have a deleterious effect on the market. To help combat short sale fraud, the DRE has issued several Consumer Alerts to help educate consumers and real estate licensees alike to avoid short sale scams.  The Alerts are posted on the DRE’s website and may be found at: http://www.dre.ca.gov/cons_alerts.html

The DRE is a state department whose mission is to protect the public interests in real estate matters. For more information about DRE and its programs visit www.dre.ca.gov.

© 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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