Archives For California

Erik Hermann Green, 37, Roseville, California was found guilty on Tuesday of three counts of wire fraud in a mortgage fraud scheme.

According to evidence presented at trial, Green was part of a large-scale mortgage fraud scheme to defraud the New Century Mortgage Company by submitting false documentation about employment, income and assets, including fraudulent loan applications and other altered bank documents. Around October 2006, when Green submitted his fraudulent loan applications to obtain a loan for $820,000, he was a licensed real estate sales person and managed approximately 15 loan officers. As part of the scheme, Green received a check for $100,000 that was funneled through a shell company at the close of escrow. Green used the funds for personal expenses.

Co-defendants Stephen Pirt and Janis Pirt previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Stephen Pirt was sentenced in 2015 to 25 months in prison and in 2014, Janis Pirt was sentenced to five years of probation with a year of home detention.

Green is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley on June 13, 2019. Green faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of conviction. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott made the announcement.

This case is the product of an investigation by the IRS Criminal Investigation and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael D. Anderson and Miriam R. Hinman are prosecuting the case.

 

Michael S. Davenport, 50, Santa Barbara, California, the former bass guitar player for the rock band, The Ataris, was sentenced on Wednesday for defrauding thousands of would-be renters and home-buyers throughout the United States from 2009 to 2016.

Davenport’s Santa Barbara-based business changed names several times but was known variously as MDSQ Productions LLC, Housing Standard LLC, Anchor House Financial, American Standard, American Standard Online, and Your American Standard. Court documents simply refer to the business as “American Standard.”

As part of his guilty plea, Davenport admitted that American Standard posted ads on Craigslist listing certain houses for sale or rent at very favorable prices, when, in fact, the houses described in the ads didn’t exist. Consumers who responded to the ads were told they would have to purchase American Standard’s list of houses before they could see any additional information. Consumers were also told that the houses on American Standard’s list were in “pre-foreclosure,” that they could purchase the properties by simply taking over the homeowners’ mortgage payments, and that the deeds to the homes would then be transferred into the customers’ names. The $199 fee that American Standard charged to access the list was purportedly to cover the cost of title searches and deed transfers. No matter what area of the country the consumer lived in, American Standard salespersons told them that the list contained numerous pre-foreclosure properties available in their area.

After consumers paid the $199 fee, they learned that the houses on American Standard’s list were not actually available for purchase. A substantial number of the addresses contained on the list were fictional, or there were simply no houses at those locations. In numerous other instances, the houses were not in pre-foreclosure or any financial distress and were not available to be purchased at below-market prices. If an American Standard customer asked for more information about a specific house advertised on Craigslist, the company’s customer service department always told them that the house was no longer available.

Davenport’s conspiracy and scheme to defraud operated from approximately January 2009 through at least October 5, 2016, over which time American Standard defrauded more than 130,000 people to the tune of more than $25 million. The victims were located in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Over 100 victims of the scam were located within the Southern District of Illinois, spread across 22 counties, with multiple victims in both St. Clair and Madison counties. American Standard’s list included 534 houses located in Southern Illinois.

Four of Davenport’s former employees have also been charged with participating in the American Standard fraud conspiracy. On Wednesday afternoon, just hours after Davenport’s sentencing, Cynthia L. Rawlinson, 52, Santa Barbara, California was sentenced by Judge Yandle to five years of supervised release. Rawlinson was a salesperson who also served as a manager for American Standard for a brief period of time. Earlier this year, two other American Standard sales representatives from Santa Barbara, California, Mark A. Phillips, 50, Semjase E. Santana, 37 were also sentenced to serve five years of supervised release. And last June, Carlynne L. Davis, 34, Lompoc, California, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with her participation in American Standard. Davis’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 5, 2019.

In handing down the seven-year sentence at the federal district courthouse in Benton, Illinois, United States District Judge Staci M. Yandle chastised Davenport for what she characterized as a crime of simple greed. “You were intoxicated with making all this money,” she told the ex-rocker. “You did horrible things.”

As part of his sentence, Davenport was ordered to forfeit $853,210.11 in fraud proceeds that were recovered from his credit card processing accounts, as well as $79,000 in cash that was seized from him at the Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Davenport pled guilty last September to a one-count federal indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

This case is part of an ongoing investigation by the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service. The Office of the Honorable Joyce E. Dudley, District Attorney for Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Maria Office of the FBI have provided substantial assistance in the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott A. Verseman.

 

Prakashumar (“Kash”) Bhakta was sentenced today for operating a mortgage fraud scheme throughout Southern California and the Inland Empire that preyed on homeowners facing foreclosure.

The fraud scheme stretched through San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles, counties, in California. Defendants convinced distressed homeowners that they could provide legal assistance to help save their home. They persuaded victims to pay them $3,500 to start; then $1,000 monthly; and separate fees for filing legal documents. Defendants filed and recorded numerous fraudulent documents, including false bankruptcies and false court filings. The scam defrauded lenders and other owners of their rightful possession of the residential properties. Meanwhile, the defendants took thousands of dollars from homeowner victims to perform fraudulent services. Bhakta, who was an integral part of the scheme, falsely notarized numerous fractional interest grant deeds without the presence of the person whose signature was being notarized. Bhakta, the last defendant to admit fault, pled guilty on November 28, 2018, to 113 felony charges, including conspiracy, grand theft, and filing false or forged documents.   http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Prakashumar

Mr. Bhakta was sentenced to seven years and eight months in state prison. Restitution will be ordered in the amount of $256,000. Co-defendants Jacob Orona, Aide Orona, John Contreras, Marcus Robinson, and David Boyd previously pled guilty. They were sentenced to state prison terms ranging from four years to seven years and four months.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra made the announcement.

We have zero tolerance for scam artists who cheat vulnerable families by stealing their life savings and shattering their dreams of owning a home,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Today’s sentence should serve as a reminder: if you prey on hardworking Americans and betray their trust, my office will hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

The guilty pleas and sentences result from a joint investigation by the California Department of Justice, Fraud and Special Prosecutions Section; the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of the Inspector General; and the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.

Peter Cash Doye, 41, San Diego, California, a  finance executive and Raquel Reid, 38, San Diego, California, a notary public and real estate broker, were convicted following a two-week trial, on all counts and for their roles in a massive real estate fraud scheme that generated nearly $50 million in fraudulently-obtained loan proceeds.

The evidence presented at trial demonstrated that Doye and Reid defrauded lenders into making enormous loans against four multi-million dollar mansions in La Jolla and Del Mar, California then used forged documents to make it appear that the loans had been paid off so they could obtain additional loans from new lenders who believed the mansions were owned “free and clear.”

Doye, a senior executive at the real estate investment firms Conix, Inc. and Variant Commercial Real Estate (“VCRE”), negotiated the financing from unsuspecting lenders and investors based on a host of lies about the collateral used to secure the loans.  To pull of the scam, Doye, Reid, and their co-conspirators created forged real estate lien “releases” and recorded fraudulent records at the San Diego County Recorder’s Office, complicating the chain of title for these homes.  Reid notarized the forged documents, helping to make the fraudulent paperwork appear authentic.

Doye’s business partner Courtland Gettel, 43, Coronado, California, and Arizona attorney Jeffrey Greenberg, 67, Tucson, Arizona, previously pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme, and are serving sentences of 135 and 81 months, respectively. Gettel and Greenberg were also ordered to pay more than $43 million in restitution to victims, and to forfeit the proceeds of the crime.  Gettel was the owner of Conix and VCRE, which refurbished single-family homes, purchased distressed debt, and purchased and refurbished commercial real estate projects.

During trial, the government proved that Gettel, Greenberg, and Doye acquired the high-end homes in La Jolla and Del Mar by claiming they would be used as luxury rentals and investment properties—although in fact, Gettel and Doye lived in the properties along with their families. When they needed money to fund other business deals, Gettel and Doye began negotiating with new lenders, pretending that the first loans never existed or had already been paid off.  Greenberg admitted that he used his expertise as a lawyer to generate and record fraudulent records, making it appear that prior loans were paid off and helping to close the fraudulent deals.

In late 2014, the lenders began to uncover the fraud and learn that their secured interests in the properties were worthless.  In response to questions from these lenders, Doye, Reid and Gettel denied knowing anything about the fraudulent loans, and created yet more fraudulent documents to cover their tracks. For example, Reid destroyed her notary book and cut up her notary stamp, and then falsely reported to the California Secretary of State that her book had been lost.

These defendants attempted to use their significant real estate experience to pull off an egregious fraud that created serious consequences for lenders and title owners,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman.  “As this case demonstrates, federal prosecutors are fully committed to protecting the integrity of our lending system by holding such criminals accountable.”

The FBI will pursue each criminal participant in these sophisticated, multi-million dollar fraud schemes until final justice is served.” said FBI Special Agent in Charge John Brown. “Today, Peter Doye and Raquel Reid join co-conspirators Courtland Gettel and Jeffrey Greenberg as convicted felons for their roles in this massive loan fraud scheme.

United States District Judge William Q. Hayes remanded both Doye and Reid into custody following the guilty verdicts, and set their sentencing hearings for March 4, 2019, at 9:00 am.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Emily Allen and Andrew Young.

Surjit Singh, 72, Dublin, California, Rajeshwar Singh, 44, Pleasanton, California and Anita Sharma, 56, Gilroy, California were sentenced today for crimes relating to their involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme.

According to court documents, in 2006 and 2007, Surjit Singh recruited individuals with good credit to act as straw buyers for residential properties owned by his family members and associates. Rajeshwar Singh, a licensed real estate agent, assisted in the scheme by submitting loan applications for the straw buyers. Anita Sharma, a dental assistant at the time, was one of the straw buyers. Because Sharma and the other straw buyers could not afford the homes based on their true incomes, the Singhs submitted fraudulent loan applications and supporting material to lending institutions that included false statements about the straw buyers’ income, employment, liabilities, and intent to occupy the homes as their primary residences.

At least 14 properties were involved in the scheme. Anita Sharma alone purchased five homes in San Jose, San Ramon, Elk Grove, Sacramento, and Modesto, California. Other straw buyers purchased or refinanced properties in Stockton, Modesto, Patterson, Lathrop and Tracy, California. All of these homes were ultimately either foreclosed upon or sold in a short sale where the bank lets homeowners sell their homes for less than is owed on the mortgage.

Sharma was paid for her involvement in the scheme. Rajeshwar Singh received financial benefits through broker commissions for the transactions and as the seller of seven of the properties. He also continued to occupy the San Ramon property at a time when Anita Sharma should have been living there. Surjit Singh benefitted through payments out of escrow directed to shell companies, such as SJR Investments and BK Investments, which were associated with his daughter and significant other, whose initials are SJR and BK respectively. These payments were purportedly for contracting services, which did not occur. He also benefitted through rental payments made to him and his significant other by the renters of the homes, as the straw buyers were not living in the homes. In addition, many of his family members received money by selling properties and had money directed to them out of escrow. According to court documents and evidence produced at trial, the defendants were responsible for the origination of more than $9.3 million in fraudulently procured residential mortgage loans.

Surjit Singh was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison, his son, Rajeshwar Singh was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison on four counts of mail fraud, four counts of bank fraud, and four counts of false statements on loan and credit applications. Anita Sharma, was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison on two counts of mail fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and two counts of false statements on loan and credit applications. Surjit Singh was ordered to pay a $2 million fine, $698,787 in restitution, and $847,000 in forfeiture. Raj Singh was ordered to pay a $1 million fine, $928,287 in restitution, and $838,399 in forfeiture. Anita Sharma was ordered to pay $603,180 in restitution and $30,000 in forfeiture.

Surjit Singh is in custody.  Rajeshwar Singh and Anita Sharma are scheduled to self‑surrender on January 9, 2019.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott made the announcement.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lee S. Bickley, Kelli L. Taylor, and Kevin Khasigian prosecuted the case.

Angela Grace Cotton, 46, Lawrence Edward Cotton, 52, Denaysha Coleman, 26, and Latrese Gevon Breaux, 26, California, have been charged today with running a sophisticated real estate scheme that resulted in the theft of more than $1.4 million.

From July 2014 through September 2016, Angela Cotton, assisted by her co-defendants, allegedly used fictitious escrow and title companies that she had created to deceive a lending company into believing it was funding two legitimate real estate transactions, according to Deputy District Attorney Daniel Kinney of the White Collar Crime Division’s Real Estate Fraud Section.

The group is accused of stealing the identities of nine people in order to facilitate the fictitious real estate sales. Along with the fake escrow and title companies, the defendants allegedly created a fictitious place of employment for one supposed homebuyer under whose name the two loans were approved, the prosecutor said.

To convince the lender of the legitimacy of the transactions and the entities involved, the defendants allegedly created fraudulent websites, emails and phone networks along with fake employment documentation and bank account statements from a non-existent financial institution for the borrower.

The lender transferred funds to a bank account it believed to be owned by a legitimate title company but was allegedly owned by one of the defendants.

The properties for which the defendants received loans were located in Los Angeles and La Cañada Flintridge, California and had not been listed for sale, the prosecutor added.

They are charged with 28 felony counts, including identity theft, forgery, mortgage fraud, grand theft of personal property, attempted grand theft of personal property, money laundering and counterfeit seal, according to the criminal complaint in case BA472018.

Additionally, Angela Cotton faces one felony count of possession of a firearm by a felon with four priors, and Lawrence Cotton is charged with one felony count of receiving stolen property exceeding $950 in value.

The charges include allegations of fraud and embezzlement resulting in the loss of more than $500,000, taking property exceeding $1.3 million in value and theft of more than $100,000. The case was filed for arrest warrant on October 16, 2018.

Angela Cotton, Coleman and Breaux were arraigned this week and pleaded not guilty. A preliminary hearing setting is scheduled for December 6, 2018 in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center.

Lawrence Cotton is still at large.

Angela Cotton was convicted in March 2010 in federal court for a similar real estate fraud scheme.

Angela and Lawrence Cotton each face a possible maximum sentence of 22 years and eight months in state prison if convicted as charged. Coleman and Breaux face a possible maximum sentence of 22 years in prison.

Bail was set at $1.41 million for Angela Cotton, $1 million for Coleman and $1.37 million for Breaux. The prosecutor is requesting bail for Lawrence Cotton be set at $1.39 million.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office made the announcement.

The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau.

Sergio Roman Barrientos, 64, Poway, California was sentenced today in multimillion dollar mortgage and foreclosure rescue fraud scheme. Barrientos was sentenced to 14 years in prison for conspiring to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud.

According to court documents, from about September 2004 through February 2008, Barrientos and co-conspirators Zalathiel Aguila and Omar Anabo operated an entity named Capital Access LLC, Vallejo, California. They preyed on homeowners nearing foreclosure, convinced them to sign away title in their homes, spent any equity those homeowners had saved, and used straw buyers to defraud federally insured financial institutions out of millions of dollars in home loans obtained under false pretenses. The equity stripped from the distressed homeowners’ properties was then used for operational expenses of the scheme and personal expenses of Barrientos and his coconspirators. Vulnerable homeowners across California lost their homes and savings as a result of the scheme, and lenders lost an estimated $10.47 million from the fraud. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Sergio+Roman+Barrientos

Co-defendant Zalathiel Aguila pleaded guilty and is scheduled for sentencing on November 16, 2018. Aguila faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott made the announcement.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew M. Yelovich and Todd A. Pickles are prosecuting the case.

Larry Allen Todt, 66, formerly of Malibu, California was sentenced to over seven years in prison and ordered to pay over $3,000,000 in restitution for his role in a fraudulent mortgage elimination scheme.

On December 6, 2017, Todt was convicted following trial on one count of conspiracy and one count of bank fraud.

According to court documents, between April 22, 2010, and November 18, 2011, Todt was a member of a conspiracy that ran a mortgage elimination program purporting to help distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure. The conspirators fraudulently altered the chain of title on residential properties, sold the properties, and received the sales proceeds.

As a requirement for participation in the “mortgage elimination program,” the conspirators enrolled homeowners as members in a Nevada City-based church named Shon-te-East-a, Walks With Spirit, or its successor entity, Pillow Foundation. The conspirators indicated to the homeowners that these entities would offer protection against the banks.

Todt ran a branch of the mortgage elimination program, recruiting homeowners into the scheme, marshaling the necessary recorded documents, and guiding the sale of the homes. Once the homeowner enrolled with Shon-te-East-a or Pillow Foundation, Todt would have a sham deed of trust created and recorded, giving the impression that the homeowner had refinanced the mortgage loan with a new lender. In reality, the new lender was a fake entity controlled by the conspirators, and the homeowner owed no money to the purported new lender.

The next step in the process was also a recorded document. The conspirators caused a fake deed of reconveyance to be recorded, giving the appearance that the true mortgage loan had been discharged and that the true lien holder no longer had a security interest in the home.

With title appearing to be clear, the conspirators caused the sale of the home with the proceeds split between the co-conspirators and the homeowners.

In total, 37 properties were sold through the Shon-te-East-a conspiracy. The conspirators recorded fraudulent documents on an additional approximately 100 homes, but were unable to sell these before the scheme unraveled.

One co-defendant, George B. Larson, formerly of San Rafael, California was convicted at trial along with Todt and sentenced to 121 months in prison. One other co-defendant, Michael Romano, Benicia, California was sentenced to 37 months in prison following his guilty plea. Remus A. Kirkpatrick, formerly of Oceanside, California and Laura Pezzi, Roseville, California have previously pleaded guilty. Tisha Trites and Todd Smith, both of San Diego, California pleaded guilty in related cases. All are awaiting sentencing.

Co-defendants John Michael DiChiara, Penn Valley, California, and James Castle, Santa Rosa, California are awaiting trial. The charges against DiChiara and Castle are only allegations; both defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott made the announcement.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Audrey B. Hemesath and Todd A. Pickles are prosecuting the case.

 

Zalathiel Aguila, 45, Vallejo, California pleaded guilty last Friday to conspiring to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud.

According to court documents, from September 2004 through February 2008, Aguila and co-conspirators Sergio Roman Barrientos and Omar Anabo operated an entity named Capital Access LLC, Vallejo, California. Capital Access preyed on homeowners nearing foreclosure, convinced them to sign away title in their homes, spent any equity those homeowners had saved, and used straw buyers to defraud federally insured financial institutions out of millions of dollars in home loans obtained under false pretenses. The equity stripped from the properties was then used for operational expenses of the scheme and personal expenses of the conspirators. Vulnerable homeowners across California lost their homes and savings as a result of the scheme, and lenders lost an estimated $10.47 million from the fraud. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=+Zalathiel+Aguila

Barrientos and Anabo are scheduled to be sentenced on September 21, 2018, and April 26, 2019, respectively.

Aguila is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. on November 16, 2018. Aguila faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott made the announcement.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew M. Yelovich and Todd A. Pickles are prosecuting the case.

 

George B. Larsen, 56, formerly of San Rafael, California was sentenced to 10 years and one month in prison and ordered to pay $1,759,100 in restitution for his role in a fraudulent mortgage elimination scheme.

On December 6, 2017, Larsen was convicted following trial on one count of conspiracy and four counts of bank fraud. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=+George+B.+Larsen

According to court documents, between April 22, 2010, and November 18, 2011, Larsen was a member of a conspiracy that ran a mortgage elimination program purporting to help distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure. The conspirators fraudulently altered the chain of title on residential properties, sold the properties, and received the sales proceeds.

As a requirement for participation in the “mortgage elimination program,” the conspirators enrolled homeowners as members in a Nevada City-based church named Shon-te-East-a, Walks With Spirit, or its successor entity Pillow Foundation. The conspirators indicated to the homeowners these entities would offer protection against the banks.

Larsen ran a branch of the mortgage elimination program, recruiting homeowners into the scheme, marshalling the necessary recorded documents, and guiding the sale of the homes. Once the homeowner enrolled with Shon-te-East-a or Pillow Foundation, Larsen would have a sham deed of trust created and recorded, giving the impression that the homeowner had refinanced the mortgage loan with a new lender. In reality, the new lender was a fake entity controlled by the conspirators, and the homeowner owed no money to the purported new lender.

The next step in the process was also a recorded document. The conspirators caused a fake deed of reconveyance to be recorded, giving the appearance that the true mortgage loan had been discharged and that the true lienholder no longer had a security interest in the home.

With title appearing to be clear, the conspirators caused the sale of the home, with the proceeds split between the co-conspirators and the homeowners.

In total, 37 properties were sold through the Shon-te-East-a conspiracy. The conspirators recorded fraudulent documents on an additional approximately 100 homes, but were unable to sell these before the scheme unraveled.

One co-defendant, Larry Todt, formerly of Malibu, California was convicted at trial along with Larsen. Three other co-defendants have previously entered guilty pleas: Remus A. Kirkpatrick, formerly of Oceanside, California, Michael Romano, Benicia, California and Laura Pezzi, Roseville, California. Tisha Trites and Todd Smith, both of San Diego, California pleaded guilty in related cases. All are awaiting sentencing.

Co-defendants John Michael DiChiara, of Penn Valley, and James Castle, of Santa Rosa, are awaiting trial. The charges against DiChiara and Castle are only allegations: both defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Co-defendants John Michael DiChiara, Penn Valley, California and James Castle, Santa Rosa, California are awaiting trial. The charges against DiChiara and Castle are only allegations: both defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott made the announcement.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Audrey B. Hemesath and Todd A. Pickles are prosecuting the case.