Pursuing the American Dream ... of Ponzi Schemes and Real Estate Fraud!?!

A Newport Beach woman from India and her daughter were in court today to face charges that they and the woman's other daughter and son-in-law conspired to commit more than $16 million in real estate fraud.

Meanwhile, the Korean-American chairman of an Irvine investment firm and his South Korean girlfriend were arrested Tuesday on federal wire fraud charges that accuse them of running a Ponzi scheme that collected $8 million from approximately 60 Korean-American victims throughout California.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office is prosecuting the first case, which alleges 71-year-old Sushama Devi Lohia and her daughter Supriti Soni, 49, of Corona del Mar, forged documents and purchased homes using "straw buyers"--people who knowingly and willingly allowed their credit to be used for the purchase of a property they never intended to control. Lohia's other daughter and son-in-law, Sunti and Dinesh Valjeebhai Shah of Newport Beach, are accused of using their businesses in Tustin and Santa Ana to process fraudulent home loans as part of the alleged scheme.

Lohia is a licensed real estate agent who worked out of offices owned by his daughters and son-in-law.

Soni owned and operated Vason Development, a business at 1520 Warner Ave., Santa Ana, that processed home loan applications.

The Shahs owned and operated New Age Realty, First Property Escrow, City First Realty, and Associates Investments Group out of the same address, 13821 Newport Ave., Tustin.

There is a warrant out for 60-year-old Dinesh Shah, who is believed to have fled to India. His 48-year-old wife Sunti was in a Santa Ana courtroom today with Lohia for a pre-trial hearing. Soni is due to appear there on March 22. The three women are being held on $5 million bail each.

According to the OCDA:

Between April 2006 and March 2008, Lohia, Soni, Suniti Shah and Dinesh Shah are accused of conspiring to commit grand theft by recruiting straw buyers through friends and family, as well as their personal employees.

Between June 2006 and October 2009, Lohia, Soni, Suniti Shah and Dinesh Shah are accused of obtaining 54 fraudulent loans on 29 real estate properties in Orange County through the use of straw buyers' credit. The four defendants are accused of fabricating loan applications to reflect significantly higher incomes for the straw buyers, supplying altered bank statements to reflect the higher incomes, falsifying employer information on loan documents, and forging the names and signatures of straw buyers on various deeds and loan documents. They are accused of using the personal and credit information of the straw buyers to complete the fraudulent documents used in obtaining loans. The four defendants are accused of taking out fraudulent loans under their own names. The 54 loans were all approved by then-Washington Mutual Bank.

On Nov. 7, 2006, Lohia and Soni are accused of signing over a property at 1805 Park Glen Circle, Santa Ana, to straw buyer J. Barboza.

Between June 2006 and October 2009, Lohia and Soni are accused of creating purchase agreements for straw buyers to purchase 16 Santa Ana properties at 2040 Oak Street, 1609 West Raymar Street, 25 La Cueva, 1405 Orange Avenue, 2234 Parton Street, 323 East Chestnut, 1418 Raymar Street, 517 South Garnsey, 1433 Garnsey, 1428 South Parton Street, 2273 Miner Street, 1602 South Orange Avenue, 810 Birch Street, 2133 West Civic Center, 919 West Camile, 1135 Baker Street, and one Huntington Beach property at 711 Owen Street.

Lohia is accused of creating a purchase agreement for 217 South Franklin, Santa Ana. Lohia and Suniti Shah are accused of creating purchase agreements for straw buyers to purchase two Santa Ana properties at 724 Oak Street and 1137 South Flower. Lohia, Dinesh and Suniti Shah are accused of creating purchase agreements for straw buyers to purchase three Santa Ana properties at 2214 Maple Street, 219 South Franklin, and 1019 West Myrtle.

Between March 31, 2008 and May 15, 2008, Lohia, Dinesh and Suniti Shah are accused of using victim Nisha A.'s identity to fraudulently transfer to other straw buyers four properties at 12222 Orangewood, Anaheim; 1619 West 12th Street, Santa Ana; 25472 Maximus Street, Mission Viejo; and 2203 Orange Avenue, Santa Ana. Between July 2008 and May 2009, Lohia, Dinesh and Suniti Shah are accused of filing false and forged documents with the Orange County Clerk-Recorder's Office to falsely show the four property transfers, and a grant deed for 918 Garnsey, Santa Ana.
 
The charges against Lohia: 13 felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime, 19 felony counts of forgery, six felony counts of identity theft, four felony counts of recording false and forged instrument, one felony count of grand theft, and sentencing enhancement allegations for loss over $100,000, property damage over $3.2 million, and aggravated white collar crime over $500,000. She faces up to 40 years in state prison.

The charges against Soni: Eight felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime, 10 felony counts of forgery, one felony count of identity theft, one felony count of recording false and forged instrument, one felony count of grand theft, sentencing enhancement allegations for loss over $100,000, property damage over $3.2 million, and aggravated white collar crime over $500,000, and 2003 prison prior sentencing enhancement for perjury. She faces 26 years in the can.

The charges against Suniti Shah: Five felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime, nine felony counts of forgery, six felony counts of identity theft, four felony counts of recording false and forged instrument, one felony count of grand theft, and sentencing enhancement allegations for loss over $100,000, property damage over $3.2 million, and aggravated white collar crime over $500,000. She faces up to 28 years behind bars.

The charges against Dinesh Shah: Two felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime, four felony counts of forgery, six felony counts of identity theft, four felony counts of recording false and forged instrument, one felony count of grand theft, and sentencing enhancement allegations for loss over $100,000, property damage over $3.2 million, and aggravated white collar crime over $500,000. He could get up to 19 years and four months in prison if he is ever brought back to face the music.

An FBI investigation led to the arrest of Euirang Hwang, 36, and Sang Yi, 39, at a home in Corona. At the time of their alleged crimes, the couple resided in Harbor City.

Hwang, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was the founder and chairman of Pinupito Inc., an Irvine investment company where Yi worked as president and secretary and exercised control over Pinupito's finances and bank accounts, according to the feds.

According to the indictment:

Hwang and Yi promised investors annual returns of up to 45 percent with false representations that Pinupito generated income by buying smaller companies in Korea, growing them, and selling them for a large profit. Investors were falsely told that Hwang was a billionaire and that his profitable company had extensive holdings in Korean businesses and real estate.

The indictment alleges that Hwang and Yi made false representations to investors. The money collected from investors was not used to finance Pinupito's operations, but rather was used to pay, among other things, luxury car leases, personal expenses and returns to existing investors.

Hwang and Yi marketed Pinupito to members of the Korean-American community, soliciting some investors during meetings held at Korean-language churches.

Hwang and Yi were named in a four-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on February 3. Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.


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