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Category Archive: ‘Fraud’

FSBO Fraud


SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Police Department has issued multiple arrest warrants for a man accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from a would-be homebuyer.

Chris Hinojosa, 29, remained on the loose Thursday, two days after SAPD issued warrants accusing him of acting as a broker without a license and securing execution of a document by deception.

According to SAPD, a woman told investigators in January that she responded to an “owner to owner” real estate sign at the corner of SW Military Drive and Zarzamora Street, and after meeting with Hinojosa, agreed to buy a home in the 3600 block of Candlehead, near Kirby.

The woman made two separate payments to Hinojosa totaling close to $20,000, only to later discover he was neither a real estate agent nor owned the property in question.

An arrest warrant for Hinojosa states “at no time did the victim sign a real estate title or any document recognized by the Texas Real Estate Commission”.

The TREC confirmed to SAPD investigators that Hinojosa does not have a Texas real estate license.

“He fleeced this person,” SAPD Sgt. Jesse Salame said Thursday. “It’s probably best not to respond to a sign on the side of the road. Look up licensed realtors.”

Salame added that this is among the many dangers of trying to purchase real estate without involving a licensed agent.

Posted by on Jun 17, 2016 in Fraud, Jim's Take on the Market | 1 comment

Broker-Owned Escrow Company Fraud


Buyer beware! He doesn’t have a website, and he’s not on Zillow:

A Yorba Linda man is suspected of stealing more than $500,000 in a real estate fraud scheme and police believe there may be other victims, authorities said.

Authorities arrested Andres Pacheco, 39, on Tuesday after making an appearance at an Orange County courthouse for an unrelated case, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department.

Pacheco is charged with multiple felony counts for grand theft, non-sufficient funds with intent to defraud and enhancements for aggravated white-collar crime over $200,000 and $500,000.

Pacheco is a real estate broker and owner of Santa Ana-based Franklin Equity Corporation/Signature Escrow. On July 1, 2015, a victim told detectives he had been defrauded by Pacheco.

An investigation revealed that the company failed to return $186,000 in escrow it was holding pending the completion of a real estate transaction, Bertagna said. When the transaction was canceled, the money was never returned.

Authorities found eight more victims who gave Pacheco $540,000 in earnest deposits for short-sale transactions. That money was never returned either, Bertagna said.

Calls to the Franklin Equity Corporation were not returned.

He is being held in Orange County jail on $540,000 bail. His next court appearance in Wednesday.

Posted by on Apr 7, 2016 in Fraud, Jim's Take on the Market | 1 comment

Short-Sale Fraud


The new guy named Jeremy wandered into the discussion about short-sale fraud the other day, and found that long-time readers here don’t take kindly to scams – and scammers.  But we’ve seen how short-sale fraud has run unabated, and that it has practically become a badge of honor among realtors. Nobody in the industry is motivated to stop it either.

Here are a few examples:

  1. At the top of the last article, Jeremy’s friends were filing notices that mortgages were paid off when they weren’t, which is outright fraud. But the second half of the article mentioned the typical example of short-sale fraud, where a straw buyer purchases the property at a below-market price, and then spoons it to a waiting buyer who pays retail. The banks who got shorted on the first sale might have caught the fraud with better appraisals, or if they just had a strict policy. I’ll never forget the one case where the perpetrator caught wind of his own story here on the blog and left a his comment. He said they included in their contract to flip the house immediately to the shorted bank.  They then flipped their short-sale buy on the SAME DAY to a retail buyer for a $100,000+ profit.  If the banks have knowledge and turn their head, then it’s on them.
  2. A short-sale that’s fully furnished. The seller makes the furniture sale mandatory so he can squeeze some cash out of the deal – he sells the ‘furniture’ to the buyer for $50,000 to $100,000 outside of escrow, in exchange to agreeing to a low-ish sales price for the house.  Usually these are cash sales only.
  3.  Listing agent twists seller’s arm to take his buyer, rather than one of the two higher cash offers.  I turned this one into VP of Fraud at the Bank of America, who said that because the lower price was still within their acceptable range, he’d let it go.
  4.  There were the investors who approached naive listing agents and insisted on negotiating their own deal with the bank.  If they could get the price approved low enough to flip immediately, they’d complete the purchase.
  5.  Both short sale and REO investors engage in ‘reverse staging’ to make a property appear in worse condition than it is, including the removal of kitchen-cabinet doors, garbage left lying around the home, and sometimes old fish hidden behind refrigerators to create pungent scents.  Sometimes BPOs include false property stigmas such as high crime rates, or claim the home was a meth lab that would need to be entirely gutted.
  6.  Parents buying their child’s over-encumbered house as a short-sale.  A favorite among realtors themselves.

Thankfully most of these are in the rear-view mirror!

Posted by on Mar 24, 2016 in Fraud, Jim's Take on the Market, Scams, Short Sales, Short Selling | 8 comments

Local Fraudsters Sentenced


They nailed these guys for fraud….but only 18 months in jail?  This is more than your standard short-sale fraud, and I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often.  They just sent in a forged bank reconveyance showing that the mortgage had been paid (when it wasn’t), and then sold the property.

Link to story

A Carlsbad real estate broker and his brother were sentenced Monday to prison terms for their roles in a fraudulent “debt elimination” scheme that purported to eliminate the mortgages on several million-dollar homes in Del Mar, La Jolla and San Diego.

U.S. District Judge John Houston sentenced Adel Afkarian, 43, of Carlsbad, to 18 months in custody and Atef Afkarian, 41, of Slidell, Louisiana, to 13 months. In addition to the time in custody, the brothers were both ordered to pay more than $5.5 million in restitution to the victims of the scheme.

To implement the scheme, the Afkarians identified underwater homeowners — including themselves — and began a process to make it appear as though the homeowners’ debts had been satisfied.

To do so, they recorded fraudulent deeds that purported to extinguish the large mortgage loans encumbering each property.

Working through entities known as The Better Mortgage Company and Elite Coast Realty, the defendants then sold the properties to innocent purchasers, deceiving the buyers into paying the full purchase price to the Afkarians or their co-conspirators. The mortgage lenders, unaware of the fraudulent documents recorded on title or unable to prevent the sale in time, were left unpaid.

With regard to their own underwater home, the Afkarians pretended that $1.4 million in mortgage debt had vanished, prosecutors said.

The defendants used the “debt elimination” method to successfully arrange the fraudulent sale of four properties, generating more than $4.3 million in proceeds which went directly into bank accounts of the brothers and their co-conspirators.

In some cases, the brothers sold the fraudulent “debt elimination” program to existing clients of their mortgage business, according to prosecutors.

In addition to the “debt elimination” scheme, the Afkarians also conspired to arrange fraudulent short sales for underwater clients through a simultaneous “double escrow” scheme.

Rather than selling an underwater home at a pre-approved short sale price, the defendants arranged two simultaneous sales of the same property at two sale prices, using a straw buyer as the intermediary and purported seller in the second transaction.

That way, the short sale lender would believe that the property was being sold for the initial first escrow price, rather than the higher second escrow price. The defendants and their co-conspirators would then pocket the difference, diverting money from the lenders.

The Afkarians each pleaded guilty in September 2013. As part of their pleas, they also agreed to forfeit a home on Santa Fe Canyon Place in Torrey Santa Fe, which they had purchased using about $715,000 in proceeds from the fraud, and an additional $388,000 recovered from bank accounts where they had transferred proceeds.

Posted by on Mar 22, 2016 in Fraud, Jim's Take on the Market, Short Sales | 11 comments

International Money Laundering


Agents aren’t known for asking a lot of questions – from

The numbers are staggering: Annually, $1 trillion is stolen by corrupt officials from countries around the globe.

That money needs to be spent, or laundered, and much of it goes into big, anonymous real estate deals in the United Kingdom, which is seeing $1.5 billion in unrecorded capital inflows per month.

The main source of that money? Russia.

From Russia with Cash, a new documentary that aired at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on December 15, focuses squarely on the phenomenon. It examines up close British real estate agents’ willingness to overlook a deal’s potential illegality in the hopes of a big commission.

Wearing hidden cameras, Russian government minister “Boris” and his blond girlfriend “Nastya” tour five palatial apartments in central London, accompanied each time by a different real estate agent.

The movie captures the interactions. We watch Boris buttonhole each realtor to confide that he is a government minister with a “very small salary,” adding, “Needless to say, the money for this flat comes straight out of the Russian budget.” He explains that his name cannot be connected to the property in any way.

Despite having just heard that their client is a crook, the agents invariably continue the deal. Several refer him to a lawyer; one says, “You shouldn’t be telling me anything about any of these things,” but doesn’t cut the conversation short.

In the United States, that behavior is fine: real estate agents in the United States aren’t obligated to report on clients whose legality is in question. But in the United Kingdom, an agent who thinks a potential client might be laundering money illegally is required by law to file a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) with the country’s National Crime Agency.

In the film, the agent showing the ritziest apartment—an ornate, five-bedroom flat selling for £15.8 million (and potentially fetching a £315,000 commission for the agent)—does seem to have second thoughts after Boris’s speech; there’s a moment where it looks like he might turn the Russian down. But then he says, “No one will find your name on this,” and proceeds to explain how that can work.

None of the deals go far beyond the initial conversation, but the film is a powerful, if repetitive, illustration of how corruption flourishes. Corrupt officials from around the world need safe places to park their money, and real estate deals are currently the vehicle of choice—as long as the bureaucrats’ and oligarchs’ names can’t be traced to the purchases.

Read full article here:

Posted by on Dec 21, 2015 in Fraud, Jim's Take on the Market | 3 comments

‘The Big Short’

The long-time readers of this blog remember back when the financial crisis was imploding, and how we followed the ensuing mortgage-industry collapse.  People from Jim Grant to the FHFA were gathering on-the-street intel from this blog, and we had an audience on Wall Street.

Michael Lewis worked at Solomon Brothers during that time, and he wrote the book called, ‘The Big Short’.  The movie version comes out next month.

Here is the trailer:

Posted by on Nov 24, 2015 in Fraud, Jim's Take on the Market, Mortgage News | 2 comments

Realtor MLS Fraud & Extortion


Thanks to Susie for sending in this story of everyday realtor fraud – committed by the third-highest-producing agent team in the country – and an agent who just couldn’t be a do-gooder and turn them in.  He tried to extort $800,000 from them instead:

An excerpt:

As well as being outspoken, Tomlinson had earned a reputation as a whiz with an online database known as the Multiple Listing Service, which can only be accessed by brokers and Realtors, and supplies the data for web services such as

He alleged that when the Jills couldn’t sell a home, they would sometimes hide it from other users of the MLS. That could mean, for example, changing the address of a mansion on North Bay Road so that it would appear to be located in Allapattah, where few high-end brokers would think to look.

To the untrained eye, it looked as if the Jills were better at selling homes than their actual record suggested. And even more important: the scheme prevented other brokers from offering their services to clients whose listing were expiring on the database. Realtors only have exclusive rights to sell a home for as long as their contract with the owner lasts. Once the listing expires, the home is fair game for competitors.

In his complaint to the board, Tomlinson cited 51 instances where the Jills had hidden homes.

Esther Percal, a top broker at EWM Realty International with nearly four decades of experience, blasted the Jills’ conduct.

“The Jills broke the rules. They have a near monopoly on the top of the market because they’ve branded themselves so well,” Percal said. “They say they’re the best and they can bring the best prices, but they don’t have a magic wand. Their listings can expire like everybody else.”

In a response to Tomlinson’s complaint — now evidence in the criminal case — the duo admitted using “poor judgment,” but said they never realized “the consequences” of the data jiggering. And they denied their conduct actually broke Realtor association rules.

About five years ago, the Jills explained, they got a call from an “irate client” whose property had not sold. The client had gotten “a barrage of unsolicited calls” from other Realtors looking to snag business as his listing had just expired.

The Jills said that a staffer — unnamed in the document — overheard the call and “indicated that, in the future, a client’s property could be kept off a list known as the ‘Hot Sheet,’ ” which Realtors scoured for new business. From then on, the Jills acknowledged, they would “from time to time” keep other unsold properties off the collection of the expired listings, according to the response.

Read full article here:

Posted by on Nov 3, 2015 in Fraud, Jim's Take on the Market, Listing Agent Practices, Realtor, Scams | 0 comments

Squatter with Papers

Hat tip to daytrip for sending this in from the


When police responded to reports of a squatter at a San Francisco mansion over the weekend, they didn’t expect to catch an alleged art thief believed to have stolen and sold paintings valued at more than $300,000.

While squatting in the home, Jeremiah Kaylor, 39, took 11 paintings from the walls and sold them through social media and pawn shops, said Officer Carlos Manfredi, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department. Nine of the 11 paintings have been recovered.

Kaylor was charged with trespassing and 10 counts of burglary, Manfredi said.

The initial call about a possible squatter at the home on the 3800 block of Washington Street came Saturday just before 11 p.m. When police made contact with Kaylor, he produced documents allegedly showing he was going to be the proprietary owner of the home, police said.

“This individual produced some type of paperwork that looked like it was official, saying he had a right to stay there,” Manfredi said. “It is a little sophisticated … not typical for squatters to do.”

When police were unable to reach the homeowner and sales agent, they left. But the next day, the sales agent called police and said no one should be inside.

Kaylor may have been squatting there for as long as two months, Manfredi said.

Posted by on Oct 20, 2015 in Fraud, Scams | 0 comments