Wonder which circle of hell Tustin businesswoman Linda Rose Gagnon is bound for after being convicted Tuesday of cheating a group of nuns out of $285,000 in a real estate scam and then spending the loot on lingerie, pet sittings and car loan payments?
Jurors deliberated about 45 minutes before finding the 59-year-old guilty of three counts of wire fraud, setting her up for a sentence of up to 60 years in federal prison at her scheduled Feb. 24 hearing in Santa Ana.
Gagnon ran Rose Enterprises Inc., a Tustin company that was supposed to help clients with delinquent mortgages. She discovered at the U.S. Province of the Religious of Jesus and Mary Inc. in Rhode Island that some nuns in the order were going to lose their home in San Diego because the owner had stopped making mortgage payments.
The nuns wanted to buy the home outright, and Gagnon offered her assistance, boasting of having $1 million to back up any deal. But she later flapped in front of the nuns a bogus letter that appeared to be from a California attorney, explaining she now needed $285,000 to seal the deal.
The nuns wired her the money from their retirement account to purchase the property, but Gagnon used it instead on a personal pet sitter, lingerie, car payments, crap from retail outlets and a lavish trip to San Francisco.
City News Service quotes Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Keenan telling jurors that when the nuns grew suspicious of the real estate acquisition, Gagnon stalled them with lies and by “withholding key facts.” When the nuns discovered the home had been purchased at auction for $212,000 and requested pulling their money out, Gagnon told them she would acquire the home from the new owner. That was in December 2008. By February 2009 all the nuns' money was gone and they received an eviction notice.
Gagnon even had the nerve to ask for another $280,000, claiming the $285,000 was “tied up in escrow.” Instead, the nuns turned to other professionals and eventually acquired the property for $255,000. When they grew tired of Gagnon's lies about getting the original amount refunded, they turned to the FBI.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.