I went to my newspaper's crime page and a real estate section broke out! That's how it feels given the recent spate of Orange County cases involving those in the home sales/mortgage loan modification industry. Consider …
-An Irvine man who owned a real estate brokerage firm in Huntington Beach despite having no California Bureau of Real Estate license went before an Orange County Superior Court judge Thursday to face charges of allegedly ripping off three loan modification customers, according to prosecutors who fear there may be many more victims. Michael Pelimiano Soriano, 45, of Irvine, owned and operated Cyberlink Diamond Group LLC in Huntington Beach, where his employees solicited distressed homeowners seeking to renegotiate the terms of their mortgage loans. Senior Deputy District Attorney Pete Pierce alleges Soriano's company collected illegal upfront fees from three customers, and investigators fear there are many more victims because Cyberlink Diamond Group LLC had $1 million in its business account. Soriano and two of his real estate agents–Agustin Navarra Alayon, 52, of Canoga Park, and Joseph Anthony Q. Oliva, 50, of San Jose–are each charged with six counts of grand theft and one count of collecting a foreclosure consultant unlawful advance fee. Anyone who believes they were victimized by the company is asked to call Supervising District Attorney Investigator Andy Terhorst at 714.648.3615.
-Guess what? Home loan modifiers accused of scamming don't always get the book tossed at them. Christopher Wright Fox, 40, of Laguna Niguel, King Bethel Harris III, 45, of St. Louis, and Curtis James Melone, 40, of Huntington Beach, collected more than $6 million without providing any services to thousands of distressed homeowners who sought loan mods, the state Attorney's General office alleged in December 2011. But Harris, who had been facing 37 felony counts (mostly grand theft) just had all those charges dropped under a plea deal that had him admitting to a misdemeanor of violating business and professional codes, according to his attorney. Fox and Melone, who pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy on Feb. 5 and received short jail stays and community service, just had their cases knocked down to misdemeanors as well, according to Melone's attorney.
-Guess what? Real estate companies can be victims, too! Kristina Marie Hosea pleaded guilty in federal court in Santa Ana last week to embezzling more than $500,000 from her employer, Advanced Real Estate Services of Irvine. The 44-year-old Corona resident, who had been an assistant to the president of the company, had been charged on March 23 with wire fraud, and federal Judge Cormac Carney is scheduled to sentence her on Dec. 7, when she could get 20 years in prison. An FBI investigation uncovered that beginning in at least September 2008 and continuing through about May 3, 2014, Hosea conducted transfers and cashed at least 100 checks drawn on Advanced Real Estate Services' bank account and payable to her or others for non-business-related expenses totaling about $319,000, causing wire transfers into her personal account. She also used company credit cards to make nearly $197,000 in purchases unrelated to company business and concealed her thefts with altered and modified statements, phony invoices and deleted records of checks from company computers, according to the feds.