Archives For Title Fraud

Ira Morya Davis, 40, Irving, Texas, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud on Oct. 26, 2021.

According to information presented in court, Davis and at least two other co-conspirators devised a fraud scheme targeting various financial institutions and real estate purchasers.  To accomplish the fraud, Davis and his co-conspirators created shell companies and executed various mortgage and property documents that purportedly conveyed ownership interests of various real properties from the true owners to the conspirators’ shell companies.  Davis and his co-conspirators then filed the fraudulent documents with county offices falsely showing that they had mortgage liens on the properties, sold the properties, and triggered the title companies to unwittingly fund the co-conspirators.  During the course of the scheme, Davis obtained and used fraudulent notary stamps using real people’s identities, which enabled the conspirators to legitimatize the otherwise fraudulent documents.  Davis and his co-conspirators targeted multiple properties, and the financial harm resulting from his offense was at least $2.5 million.

Davis was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 12, 2020.  He faces up to 20 years in federal prison.  The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.  A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei made the announcement.

The Eastern District is committed to tackling complex fraud schemes, including those that target financial institutions and purchasers in the real estate market,” said Acting United States Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei.  “Regardless of the complexities involved, the public can be assured that EDTX and its law enforcement partners are working tirelessly to disentangle complex white collar fraud schemes and bring culpable individuals to justice.”

The case is being investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

 

Alireza Zamanizadeh, aka Ali Zamani, 63, Portland, Oregon pleaded guilty today for perpetrating a bank fraud scheme whereby he used a residential property he did not own as collateral for obtaining a bank loan worth more than $316,000.

According to court documents, on or about February 17, 2017, Zamanizadeh filed a quitclaim deed in Deschutes County, transferring a residential property in Bend, Oregon to his business for one dollar without the property owner’s consent. A quitclaim deed is a document used to quickly transfer the ownership of real property from one party to another.

Zamanizadeh then used the property as collateral for obtaining a loan worth $316,092. Zamanizadeh forged the property owner’s signature on a statement verifying the property transfer as required by the mortgage lender and title company processing the loan.  Based on Zamanizadeh’s false representations, the mortgage company approved the loan and transferred the funds to Zamanizadeh’s bank account.

On June 14, 2021, Zamanizadeh was charged by criminal information with bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. Zamanizadeh waived indictment and pleaded guilty to bank fraud.

Bank fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine, and three years’ supervised release.

Zamanizadeh will be sentenced on January 4, 2022 before U.S. District Court Judge Anna J. Brown.

As part of the plea agreement, Zamanizadeh has agreed to pay $400,000 in restitution to his victim and has transferred a second residential property in Clark County, Washington back to the victim.

Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug of the District of Oregon made the announcement.

This case was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation with assistance from FBI and is being prosecuted by Katherine A. Rykken, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

Patrick Joseph Soria, 35, West Hollywood, California was sentenced today to 152 months in federal prison for orchestrating a real estate fraud scheme that victimized more than 2,000 homeowners, involved fraudulent filings that affected the title to properties across the country and caused more than $7 million in losses.

From January 2015 to June 2018, Soria stole money from homeowners and would-be home buyers through a two-pronged scheme.

Firstly, Soria hijacked title to properties through fraudulent title filings done at county recorders’ offices around the country. He faked the filings to make it appear that he owned the properties, and then “sold” the properties to victims who thought they were buying the homes from the true owner. In fact, Soria never owned the homes, and he instead used the victims’ “purchase” money for his own personal expenses, including escort services, stays at luxury hotels, and Bentley and Lamborghini car rentals.

In the second part of the scheme, Soria convinced homeowners that he could help them with their mortgages, either by assisting them with a loan modification or by taking over their mortgage from their lender, with the promised result, either way, of reducing their mortgage payments. He told them that he had achieved success in this area in the past, and he convinced them that he was trying to help them, often befriending them to gain their trust and give them hope.

After gaining the victims’ trust, Soria convinced homeowners to stop paying their real lender and to start paying him. Through yet more fraudulent filings, Soria deceived his victims into believing he had taken over their mortgages. He also falsely lulled victims into doing nothing to protect themselves when they started receiving foreclosure and eviction notices. Many of the homeowners targeted in the scheme lost their homes.

As part of the fraud, Soria used company names such as HBSC US and Deutsche Mellon National Asset LLC, designed to trick homeowners into thinking that these companies were real. He also took advantage of the complex mix of lenders, trustees, beneficiaries, and servicers in the mortgage market, and the assignments of mortgage loans between entities, to confuse homeowners and to make it seem as if he did in fact own the properties and mortgages.

More than 2,000 individuals were victimized through this scheme. Soria admitted in court documents that losses totaled more than $7.6 million. In addition to causing losses to individual homeowners, the fraud scheme also victimized numerous lenders who held mortgages on, or other interests in, properties targeted in the scheme.

The targeted properties were located nationwide, including in Texas, New York, Nevada, and in the California cities of Vernon, Beverly Hills, Santa Ana, Yorba Linda, Anaheim and elsewhere.

A restitution hearing is scheduled for October 25, 2021. Soria pleaded guilty on March 2, 2021 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of contempt of court.

Soria was sentenced by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who called Soria “a skillful conman who created a very sophisticated scheme.” Judge Fischer also stated, “This is not the largest case I have presided over in terms of dollars, but it is the most brazen and heartless.”

In a related matter, Soria committed numerous acts of contempt of court in a related civil case before Judge Fischer, Nationstar Mortgage LLC v. Patrick Soria, et al., 18-cv-03041-DSF-RAO (C.D. Cal.), including willfully spending funds subject to an asset freeze. The contempt resulted in his incarceration in 2018, and criminal charges filed by the Court in 2019 by way of an Order to Show Cause.

This matter was investigated by the FBI and the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, with assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department; the Beverly Hills Police Department; the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office; and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Assistant United States Attorney Kerry L. Quinn of the Major Frauds Section prosecuted this case.

 

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.

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.

Jon Richard Rattray, Gilbert, Arizona has been indicted on felony counts of Fraud Schemes & Artifices, Money Laundering, Controlling an Illegal Enterprise, Computer Tampering, Aggravated Identity Theft, and Forgery.

The State alleges that Rattray, through his company Hawkeye Real Estate Services, LLC, filed a series of forged lien release documents at the Office of the Maricopa County Recorder with the intent of freeing up equity in homes he owned so that he could take out new loans on those same properties or sell them to purchasers as unencumbered property.  The alleged loss to victims is estimated at over $6 million.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich made the announcement.

This case was referred for investigation by the Office of the Maricopa County Recorder and investigated by agents of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

All defendants are presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law.

Assistant Attorney General Adam J. Schwartz is prosecuting this case.

Full copy of the indictment.

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.

 

Trung Anh Le, 36, California, pleaded guilty to one count of pattern of mortgage lending fraud, a category “B” felony. The fraud was committed in March of 2015.

Le misrepresented himself as the owner of three pieces of real estate property in Las Vegas, Nevada by impersonating the true owners of the property as a way to secure a loan in the amount of $180,000. As a result of Le’s misrepresentation, the title company filed deeds with the Clark County Recorder’s Office, effectively encumbering the properties.

Pattern of mortgage lending fraud is punishable by 3-20 years of imprisonment and a fine of no more than $50,000.The sentencing hearing for Le is scheduled for September 17, 2018 in the Eighth Judicial District Court.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt made the announcement.

My office is committed to protecting homeowners from fraudulent scams, and I encourage those who suspect they’ve fallen victim to a scam to file a complaint with my office,” said Laxalt.

This case was prosecuted by the Nevada Attorney General’s Criminal Prosecution Unit.

To view the criminal Information for Le, click here. To file a complaint about someone suspected of committing fraud, click here.

Angela Fawn Wallace, 57, West Hills, California, a former attorney, pleaded not guilty today to the charges, which include multiple counts each of identity theft, grand theft, forgery and procuring a false document for recording. Wallace has been charged with 72 felony counts for taking $2 million from elderly property owners and others in a real estate fraud scheme

From June 2014 through January 2017, Wallace allegedly befriended elderly victims or located properties where the owners were already deceased in order to get her name placed on the title to the properties.

The defendant is accused of using her legal expertise to ingratiate herself with the victims, said Deputy District Attorney Walter Mueller of the Real Estate Fraud Section, who is prosecuting the case.

The scheme targeted four properties in different areas of Los Angeles, California and affected about two dozen victims, including property owners, estates, trusts, investment companies, property management companies and notaries, Mueller said. Wallace allegedly either obtained loans secured by the properties or sold them to innocent purchasers, purportedly keeping virtually all of the proceeds for herself, the prosecutor said.

In one case, she allegedly had her name placed on the title, then rented several of the units and kept the rental proceeds for herself instead of giving them to the estate of the deceased owner.

The defendant has several prior felony convictions, including grand theft in 2003, 2007 and 2013; forgery in 2003; and recording false documents in 2007.

She also denied special allegations that include taking of more than $200,000 and prior convictions.

Wallace faces a maximum possible sentence of 40 years and four months in state prison if convicted as charged. Bail was set at $2.32 million.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for August 1, 2018 in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. Case BA468922 was filed July 2, 2018.

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

The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Bureau of Investigation.

 

Aderibigbe Ogundiran, 36,  Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York has been sentenced today to two to six years in prison for stealing a 19th century mansion in Fort Greene, New York as well as stealing or attempting to steal five other properties in a brazen scheme in which he transferred title of other people’s properties to himself.

According to the investigation, between February 2015 and December 2016, the defendant engaged in a scheme to steal title to or the economic benefit from six residential properties in Brooklyn, New York, targeting properties whose title holders were deceased or properties that no one seemed to be taking care of.

The defendant took advantage of the apparent inattention to the properties by filing fraudulent deeds or other instruments against the properties in an effort to gain control of them. In fact, he gained control or attempted to gain control of them in a variety of ways that included using aliases, corporate alter-egos, impostors, forged driver’s licenses, misuse of personal identifying information, and forged notarizations.

The defendant targeted the following properties:

  • 176 Washington Park, Fort Greene, New York: This property is a landmarked 19th century five-story, 10-bedroom mansion located on a double-lot directly across from Fort Greene Park and is part of the Fort Greene Historic District. On March 8, 2015, Ogundiran used a Notary Public to notarize and file a deed transferring ownership from the actual owner of the property, a deceased man whose elderly sister lived in the house, to GCU Group, Inc., a corporation controlled by Ogundiran, using an impostor to pose as the deceased owner. The deed was filed with the New York City Department of Finance, Office of the City Register, which recorded the deed on June 26, 2015, transferring ownership to the corporation controlled by Ogundiran.
  • 123 Albany Avenue, Crown Heights, New York: This property is a three-story brownstone. On March 13, 2015, the defendant once again hired a Notary Public to notarize signatures and file with the City Register, a deed purporting to transfer title of 123 Albany Avenue from the rightful owner to himself, once again using an impostor to pose as the rightful owner. The identity assumed by the impostor was that of a person who in fact had died in 2011. The fraudulent deed was recorded by the City Register on March 30, 2015.
  • 42 Albany Avenue, Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York: This property was purchased in 2004 by an individual who died in 2010. On November 19, 2015, the City Register recorded a Power of Attorney against this property granting the defendant the right to engage in real estate transactions and other powers on behalf of the property. The deceased owner purportedly signed the Power of Attorney on June 15, 2015. On November 18, 2016, the defendant filed a deed purportedly signed by the deceased owner on July 30, 2015 conveying title to the property to Ogundiran for $500.
  • 1024 Hendrix Street, East New York: This property was purchased in 1997 by an individual who died in 2007. On October 6, 2015, the deceased owner purportedly executed a power of attorney benefitting 1024 Hendrix LLC, a corporation controlled by the defendant. On October 9, 2015, the City Register recorded a Power of Attorney against the property.
  • 1424 Fulton Street, Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York: This property, a three-story residential building with commercial space on the ground floor, was purchased by three individuals in 2013. On November 9, 2016, Ogundiran filed a Power of Attorney with the City Register which was purportedly from one of the actual owners to a corporation incorporated and controlled by the defendant. The Power of Attorney contained the forged signatures of another of the owners and a Notary Public.
  • 49 Albany Avenue, Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York: This property, a two-story house, was owned by an individual who died in 2007, leaving an only child who resided outside of the United States. On November 9, 2016, the defendant filed a forged Power of Attorney against 49 Albany Avenue. The Power of Attorney granted rights to a corporation controlled by the defendant and was purportedly signed by the deceased owner and a Notary Public.

The investigation began after the resident of 176 Washington Park, Fort Greene, New York received notice that she would have to vacate the premises. She notified her attorney, who then filed a complaint with the New York City Department of Finance.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez made the announcement.

District Attorney Gonzalez said that in at least one instance, involving 42 Albany Avenue, Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York the defendant collected rent from a tenant after leasing out an apartment. In another instance, involving 1424 Fulton Street, Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York he was captured on videotape filing a Power of Attorney at the City Register’s office, after the actual owner of the property received an email alert of a document filed against the property.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “All too often we are seeing thieves targeting seemingly abandoned properties to try to cash in on Brooklyn’s soaring real estate prices. With today’s sentence, the defendant has been held accountable. Homeowners can protect themselves by registering with the Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS) so that they are automatically informed of changes made to documents associated with their property – as happened with one of the victims in this case – to alert them to potential theft and fraud related to their property.”

Ogundiran was sentenced by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun to an indeterminate term of two to six years in prison. The defendant pleaded guilty to first-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud on March 7, 2018.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Gavin Miles, Counsel to the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Chief of the Real Estate Frauds Unit, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division.