Husband and Wife Admit Roles in Straw Buyer Scam

Allison Tussey —  April 16, 2015 — Leave a comment

Lucia Chavez, 37, and her husband Joseph Chavez, 41, both of Bakersfield, California, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud, in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme in Bakersfield. As part of their plea agreements, Lucia Chavez agreed to a personal forfeiture money judgment of $1,624,450, and Joseph Chavez agreed to a personal forfeiture money judgment of $3,092,000.

According to court documents, Lucia Chavez and Joseph Chavez conspired with seven co-defendants from 2007 to 2010 to use straw buyers to purchase residential properties in Bakersfield developed by Pershing Partners LLC, owned by Lucia Chavez, and Jara Brothers Investments (JBI), owned by her brothers, co-defendants Eliseo Jara and Sergio Jara. The conspirators paid straw buyers to purchase the properties from JBI and Pershing Partners, and funded the purchases using loans they obtained for the straw buyers from lenders based on false and fraudulent loan applications.

The loan applications the conspirators submitted to lenders frequently contained false statements concerning the straw buyers’ employment status, income, assets, intent to occupy the properties as their personal residences, and source of down payments for the purchase of the properties. The conspirators concealed from the lenders that they funded certain of the straw buyers’ down payments. The conspirators also submitted false supporting documentation to lenders such as false and altered bank account statements purporting to show that the straw buyers had high bank account balances, false verifications of the straw buyers’ bank account funds, false verifications of rent purporting to be from straw buyers’ landlords, false pay stubs, and false verifications of employment.

The court set a sentencing hearing for the Chavez defendants on July 20, 2015. The maximum sentence for the conspiracy charge is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The actual sentence will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced the guilty pleas.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kirk E. Sherriff, Henry Z. Carbajal III, and Megan A.S. Richards are prosecuting the case.

Allison Tussey

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