Three charged by Washington State AG

In the following press release Washington (WA) Attorney General Rob McKenna announced on October 20, 2006 that his office has filed first-degree theft charges and identity theft charges against three individuals accused of using falsely obtained social security numbers to get residential mortgage loans.

The Attorney General’s Criminal Division Financial Crimes Unit charged Pedro Juarez Romero with three counts of first-degree theft and one count of identity theft. Also charged in separate cases were Miguel Juarez Romero and Juana Vega Perez, husband and wife. Each were charged with one count of first-degree theft and one count of identity theft. All three individuals entered pleas of not guilty during their respective arraignments Oct. 19 in Snohomish County Superior Court.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. The charges were brought at the request of the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions.

The Attorney General’s Office alleges that Pedro Juarez Romero used a falsely obtained social security number to get two separate residential mortgages and a home equity line of credit. The social security number used by Pedro Juarez Romero was lawfully issued to a California resident.

The Attorney General’s Office further alleges that Miguel Juarez Romero and Juana Vega Perez each used falsely obtained social security numbers to get a residential mortgage loan on one occasion. The social security numbers used were lawfully issued to Washington and Idaho residents.  The trial is scheduled for Jan. 8, 2007.


Powder Springs loan officer issued with cease and desist order

In the following press release from Atlanta, Georgia, The Georgia Department of Banking and Finance’s (“Department’s”) announced that on October 27, 2006, a Cease and Desist Order issued to loan officer Taisha Pearson of Powder Springs, Georgia, became final.

Ms. Pearson was issued a Cease and Desist Order by the Department for making misrepresentations in loan files submitted to mortgage lenders. Click here to read the press release.


Daily Updates - Thursday November 2, 2006


Disbarred attorney faces charges in Pensacola

The Florida State Bar website carries a report about a Pensacola News Journal article, written by Derek Pivnick, which states that Vincent J. Whibbs Jr., who was disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court after admitting to the Florida Bar that he misappropriated over $683,000 from client trust accounts, now faces three felony charges.

The criminal investigation alleges that Whibbs not only embezzled trust-account money but that (in a real estate scheme) he also bilked another client out of $150,000 to help repay the missing money. He faces charges of organized fraud, mortgage fraud and grand theft of over $100,000. The criminal prosecution is being handled by Escambia County Assistant States Attorney Russ Edgar.

Click here to read the Supreme Court Order and also click here to read the Court Docket.

Click here for the story in the Pensacola News Journal


Man arrested, accused of defrauding couple after mortgage refi

In the following press release California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi announced on November 2, 2006 that California Department of Insurance (CDI) investigators have arrested a former Northridge insurance agent who allegedly took more than three quarters of a million dollars from senior citizens and their families for investments and annuities, then never made the promised investments.

“Let this be a warning to anyone who is even thinking of perpetrating fraud against California’s seniors,” said Commissioner Garamendi. “You will be caught.”

Ruben Echiverri Cu, 56, was arrested by CDI Fraud investigators at his Northridge home on October 31, 2006. He was booked into the Twin Towers jail facility in Los Angeles, and charged with five felony counts of Grand Theft and 15 felony counts of securities fraud, including Sales of Unqualified Securities, Sales of Securities without a Certificate, and Making False Statements in the Sale of a Security. Bail is set at $1,172,418.

In August 2004 the Department received a complaint from Shirley and Howard Horlick, age 77 and 80 respectively, alleging that life insurance agent Ruben Cu had offered to advise them on insurance annuity investments. Instead, they were convinced to refinance their mortgage-free home and invest a total of $317,000 into Cu’s corporations for a return of 14% to 20% on their investment. Cu paid back only a small portion of their principal investment. The Horlicks have been unable to collect the balance of the money promised to them by Cu.

The CDI Investigation Division also discovered that Cu allegedly convinced several other senior citizens to invest in his corporations where he issued promissory notes yielding high rates of return, but failed to make payments as promised. Cu allegedly accepted over $774,418 from five senior citizens and two other clients.

On October 18, 2006, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed charges against Cu. The filing stemmed from an investigation conducted by CDI’s Investigation Division, Valencia regional office. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Major Frauds Division is prosecuting the case. Anyone who believes they are a victim of Ruben Cu or knows someone who believes they may be a victim is urged to contact the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-HELP (4357).


Attorney linked to FBI investigation suspended by FL Supreme Court

The Florida State Bar website states that The Daily Business Review  reported that attorney Gabriel Martin, who ran unsuccessfully for Miami-Dade public defender promising to clean up the office, has been suspended from practicing law after his firm was caught up in a federal real estate fraud investigation.

Last month, the Florida Supreme Court suspended Martin’s law license on an emergency basis as the FBI investigated an employee of Martin’s law firm. According to The Florida Bar’s petition to suspend Martin’s license, the attorney allowed an employee to complete almost 100 fraudulent real estate transactions, bringing millions of dollars into a trust account in Martin’s name. The Supreme Court required Martin to notify all his clients of his suspension, and ordered him to deposit all funds received from practicing law into a trust account to be overseen by the Bar.

Please click here to read the Supreme Court Order.

The report in the Daily Business News alleges that an employee of Martin, George Louis Garcia, was involved as closing agent in nearly one hundred fruadulent mortgage transactions.


Former police officer accused In real estate scam

The following November 1, 2006 press release from The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission’s Enforcement Division announced the issuing of an Order to Show Cause alleging that Somerville Police Officer Scott Trant violated the state’s conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A by attempting to purchase property from a person seeking police assistance in connection with the property. A public hearing will be scheduled within 90 days. Click here to view a video news report from WCVB-TV News in Boston, MA

According to the Order to Show Cause, on February 9, 2005, an Everett woman visited the Somerville Police Department and sought assistance from Trant, who was on duty, regarding her ex-husband. The woman told Trant about her ex-husband’s behavior and questionable mental state. The ex- husband was living in an illegal apartment in the basement of a dilapidated property that had been cited for code violations. The property, located at 21 Vernon Streetin Somerville, was owned in trust by the woman and her two children. The woman had agreed to have her ex-husband removed from the property and to correct any code violations as part of a January 2004 agreement with the Somerville Inspectional Services Division (ISD). She reported to Trant that she had considered selling the property and had rejected an offer of $100,000. Trant offered to purchase the house, which was assessed at $438,700, for approximately $200,000.

On February 9 and 10, 2005, Trant attempted to phone ISD to gain more information about the city’s action involving the house; contacted the psychiatric unit of Cambridge Hospital for “information about getting someone committed;” went to 21 Vernon Street to conduct a “welfare check;” and reported to Cambridge Hospital on the ex-husband’s condition. On February 11, 2006, the ex-husband was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility. On February 14, 2005, Trant discussed the ex-husband with caseworkers at Cambridge Hospital and the Department of Mental Health.

On February 23, 2005, Trant again offered by phone to purchase the house for $200,000. He had an attorney draw up a standard purchase-and-sale agreement and gave the agreement to the woman. After the Somerville Police Department began investigating Trant’s conduct regarding this matter, he increased his offer to $300,000.

Section 19 prohibits a municipal employee from officially participating in matters in which to his knowledge he, his immediate family or a business in which he is serving as a director has a financial interest. Section 23(b)(2) of the conflict law prohibits a public employee from using or attempting to use his position to secure for himself or others an unwarranted privilege of substantial value not properly available to similarly situated individuals. Section 23(b)(3) of the conflict law prohibits a public official from knowingly or with reason to know acting in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that anyone can improperly influence or unduly enjoy the public employee’s favor in the performance of his official duties.

The Commission has the authority to impose civil penalties of up to $2,000 per violation.


Florida woman arrested accused in real estate scam

The following article is taken from the Collier County Sheriffs Office website: On Oct. 26, investigators from the Economic Crimes Unit arrested Lorraine Afshari, 55, of 1090 Egrets Walk Circle, on seven warrants after an investigation into her mortgage company, Tuscany Mortgage and Investment Company.

It was discovered that Afshari would approach potential investors with the idea that they would invest money into her company, which would fund mortgages, and in return, the investors would receive a high interest rate on their return. She would issue the investors a promissory note or promise to issue one, which constitutes a sale of securities. Afshari does not have a license to sell securities or investments.

Afshari did not lend money to anyone for a mortgage. It was determined that each investor’s money was going to pay back earlier investors and pay operating expenses for the company. The total loss is $180,000.

The warrants served on Afshari were: scheme to defraud over $50,000, 2 counts of communications fraud, 10 counts of fraudulent transactions, scheme to defraud in connection with the sale of a security, engaging in a course of business to defraud, 10 counts of sale of unregistered securities and 10 counts of the sale of securities by unregistered issuer.


If anyone feels they may have been a victim of Afshari (pictured left), please contact Investigator. Tom Muscato at 239-774-8034.