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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.

Edgar Avila aka Michael Mendez aka Michael Edgar Avila-Mendez, aka Michael AvMen was indicted on one charge of mail fraud and one charge of bank fraud in connection with two separate fraud schemes.

According to the affidavit in support of the arrest warrant, in January 2014, Avila submitted a loan application to purchase a residence at 2915 Legend Hill Drive, Katy, Texas.  On the application, he represented that he worked for AvMen Entertainment at 924 Town and County 800, Houston for a year and a half as a line producer with a salary of $13,600 per month.  He also stated he attended Devry College of Business from September 2009 through May 2013 to account for his history prior to working at AvMen. Paystubs along with a VOE faxed to the mortgage company confirmed this employment. The officer attesting to the affidavit stated that he was unable to find a legitimate business under the name AvMen and discovered that Avila created the entity as part of his fraud scheme.  An assumed name certificate for AvMen was filed in August 2010 using the same address as listed on Avila’s driver’s license.  The affiant also stated that he confirmed through several sources that Avila and Michael Avmen were the same person. Avila’s disclosed bank accounts did not reveal any income associated with AvMen – nor did they substantiate income nearing $13,000 per month.

To support his claims of attending Devry University, according to the affidavit, Avila submitted a college transcript containing the signature of John J. Getek, as college registrar.  Investigation showed that the Getek was not registrar for Devry, instead, in 2001 he was the Deputy Inspector General of Audit for the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General – and Getek’s digital signature was available online from his annual reports to Congress.

In March 2015, according to the affidavit, Avila defaulted on the loan.  In September 2015, the mortgage lender modified the loan and negotiated a payment plan, based on a statement from Avila that he was diagnosed with “cephalic neuralgias” and “Bell’s palsy.”  He claimed his illness caused him to lose his job and that his current job did not pay the same.  The affiant stated that while he could not rule out an illness, Avila was arrested by the Houston Police Department in 2015 “which is the more likely reason for his sudden lack of income.”

The loan was guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

The affidavit also details a vehicle related fraud scheme underlying the mail fraud charges where Avila allegedly provided a fake social security card, false Texas driver’s license and fake Devry University transcript to obtain a vehicle loan. According to the affiant, he then cleared title to the vehicle through a mechanic’s lien sale to himself and sold the vehicle to a Lexus dealership.

Jason Calabrese, 44, Watertown, Connecticut was sentenced to six months of imprisonment, followed by three months of home confinement and two years of supervised release, for his involvement in a series of fraudulent mortgage loan applications involving a straw borrower. Calabrese also was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and $400,585 in restitution.

According to court documents and statements made in court, in November 2005, Calabrese ’s co-conspirator, Thomas Provenzano, obtained a $923,200 loan to purchase a lakefront home located at 27 Palmer Road, Morris, Connecticut, for more than $1.1 million, despite lacking the income to pay off the mortgage. The 27 Palmer Road property was owned by an entity controlled by Ryan Geddes, another co-conspirator. Continue Reading…

Moctezuma Tovar, 46, Sacramento, California and Sandra Hermosillo, 53, Woodland, California pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme.

According to court documents, Tovar was the founder and president of Delta Homes and Lending Inc., a Sacramento, California based real estate and mortgage lending company. Delta Homes opened one office in 2003 and eventually had five offices in Sacramento and Woodland, California. As the president of Delta Homes, Tovar managed the day-to-day operations of the company and prepared and submitted residential home loan applications on behalf of Delta Homes’ clients. Hermosillo was a loan officer at the Woodland office and was also responsible for submitting residential home loan applications on clients’ behalf. Continue Reading…