Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Federal Los Angeles Jury Convicts Real Estate Agent In Flipping Case With Straw Buyers

On June 1, 2009, a federal jury in Los Angeles convicted real estate agent Maria Sanchez on 14 counts contained in an indictment, including conspiracy, money laundering, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. This was a "flipping" case with "straw buyers."

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the evidence presented during a week long trial showed that Maria Sanchez was a real estate agent and loan officer for both Locke Realty and Lending of Sante Fe Springs and Online Financial Services of Lawndale, where she was responsible for completing and verifying information in mortgage applications. It was alleged that Maria Sanchez submitted home loan financing packages to purchase residential real estate in the names of family members. Those mortgage applications contained false statements and forged signatures.

When the loans were funded, Maria Sanchez fraudulently obtained more than $1 million in loan proceeds from financial institutions and mortgage lenders for four properties in El Monte, Norwalk, Paramount and Los Angeles. It was then alleged that Maria Sanchez financially benefited from this scheme by flipping one of the properties, as well as collecting points, fees and commissions from the loan transactions. The alleged wrongdoing took place from 2003 to 2006.

In three of the transactions, Maria Sanchez's sister, Beatriz Sanchez, was identified as the buyer of the property. In the loan applications for those three properties, Maria Sanchez falsified her sister’s income, claiming that Beatriz Sanchez earned up to $8,900 per month. In the loan applications, Maria Sanchez submitted documents she obtained from friends who worked at legitimate businesses that supported the claims of her sister’s inflated income. Some of the applications were also in the name of a sister-in-law who was not accused of being part of the loan scheme but was convicted of a drug charge and was accused of wire transferring illegal drug proceeds to an escrow account to be used as a down payment.

Maria Sanchez is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge George H. Wu on September 10, 2009. At that time, Maria Sanchez faces a maximum statutory penalty of 239 years in federal prison. As a result of the aggravated identity theft conviction, Maria Sanchez faces a mandatory sentence of two years in prison.

Previously in this case, Beatriz Sanchez pleaded guilty to charges that she filed false documents with the Internal Revenue Service. Beatriz Sanchez is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wu on August 17, 2009 at which time she faces a sentence of up to one year in prison.

Any questions or comments should be directed to: Tracy Green is a principal at Green and Associates, Attorneys at Law, in Los Angeles, California. They focus their practice on the representation of licensed professionals and businesses in civil, business, administrative and criminal proceedings, with a specialty in real estate agents, brokers and other licensed professionals. Cases handled have included real estate fraud investigations and charges. 


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