John Foster and Howard Edwards have been convicted of 56 felony counts ranging from forgery, grand theft, filing of false instruments, identity theft, conspiracy, and money laundering.
The eight-day trial included over 37 witnesses with some of the victims and witnesses flown in from Massachusetts, Alabama, Ohio, and Georgia.
In 2005/2006, the two defendants befriended unsuspecting victims on an Internet chat line. Their personal information was used to obtain loans on luxury cars and real estate in Fontana. The victims were then liable for these loans. The loan proceeds were transferred to a phony escrow company. The escrow company was actually Edwards‘ mailbox at a Claremont UPS Store. Both defendants displayed extreme sophistication in committing the crimes.
The defendants falsified several real estate deeds and forged the signatures and stamps of several notary publics. The false deeds were later recorded at the San Bernardino County Recorder’s Office.
In July 2007, the defendants sold a house in the city of Gardena, California, for an additional $560,000. The house was sold without the owner’s permission and knowledge. The victims first found out about it when a lending institution attempted to foreclose on the property. The rightful owners had been living at the residence since 1971, free and clear of any liens. The defendants utilized the personal information of a man living in Massachusetts to obtain the loans. $538,000 was transferred to the phony escrow company and later dispersed to the defendants other bank accounts.
Edwards and Foster were extradited from Georgia and Illinois, respectively, in 2008. Sentencing is scheduled for July 7, 2009.