Fraudster Gets 7 Years for $16M Straw Buyer Conspiracy

Allison Tussey —  October 21, 2014 — 2 Comments

Dinesh Valjeebhai Shah, 65, was sentenced to seven years in state prison for conspiring with three other family members to commit over $16 million in real estate fraud by forging documents and purchasing homes using straw buyers.

Dinesh Shah pleaded guilty to the court Friday, Oct. 17, 2014, to five felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime, 13 felony counts of forgery, four felony counts of identity theft, four felony counts of recording false and forged instrument, five felony counts of grand theft, and sentencing enhancement allegations for loss over $100,000, property damage over $1.3 million, and aggravated white collar crime over $500,000. Dinesh Shah is also sentenced to pay $12,800 in restitution. Dinesh Shah was also sentenced to two years in state prison after being found guilty by a jury on June 25, 2014, of one felony count of filing a false tax return and two felony counts of failure to file any return or supply any information with intent to evade any tax (Case #11ZF0120).

Suniti Shah, 53, was sentenced July 27, 2012, to eight years in state prison after pleading guilty to the court to five felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime, 13 felony counts of forgery, four felony counts of identity theft, four felony counts of recording false and forged instrument, five felony counts of grand theft, and sentencing enhancement allegations for loss over $100,000, property damage over $1.3 million, and aggravated white collar crime over $500,000.

Supriti Soni, 54, was sentenced July 27, 2012, to 10 years in state prison after pleading guilty to the court to nine felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime, 17 felony counts of forgery, one felony count of identity theft, 12 felony counts of grand theft, with sentencing enhancement allegations for loss over $100,000, property damage over $3.2 million, aggravated white collar crime over $500,000, and a 2003 prison prior for perjury.

Soni and Suniti Shah‘s mother, Sushama Devi Lohia, 76, Newport Beach, was sentenced April 20, 2012, to eight years in state prison after pleading guilty to a court offer Dec. 12, 2011, to 12 felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime, 27 felony counts of forgery, 12 felony count of grand theft, eight felony counts of failure to file, four felony counts of identity theft, four felony counts of recording false and forged instrument, two felony counts of underreporting income and sentencing enhancement allegations for loss over $100,000, property damage over $3.2 million, and aggravated white collar crime over $500,000.

Lohia, Soni, Suniti Shah, and Dinesh Shah worked together to secure loans for straw buyers using forged and false documents.

The Shahs owned and operated New Age Realty, First Property Escrow, City First Realty, and Associates Investments Group. All these businesses were located at 13821 Newport Avenue, Tustin. Soni owned and operated Vason Development out of 1520 Warner Avenue, Santa Ana, a business that processed home loan applications. Lohia, a licensed real estate agent, worked out of both offices. The defendants used these offices to process fraudulent loans for straw buyers using forged and false documents.

Between April 2006 and March 2008, Lohia, Soni, Suniti Shah, and Dinesh Shah conspired 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 obtained over 15 fraudulent loans on real estate properties in Orange County through the use of straw buyers’ credit. The defendants fabricated loan applications to reflect significantly higher incomes for the straw buyers, supplied altered bank statements to reflect the higher incomes, falsified employer information on loan documents, and forged the names and signatures of straw buyers on various deeds and loan documents.

The defendants used the personal and credit information of the straw buyers to complete the fraudulent documents used in obtaining loans. The fraudulent loans were all approved by then-Washington Mutual Bank. In total, the defendants committed over $16 million in fraud.

Between July 2008 and May 2009, Lohia and the Shahs filed false and forged documents with the Orange County Clerk-Recorder’s Office to falsely show property transfers.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office began investigating this case after receiving a complaint from a realtor. In the course of the real estate investigation, it was determined that between 2005 and 2008, Lohia had under-reported her income for two years and failed to file taxes for two years.

Senior Deputy District Attorney George McFetridge of the Major Fraud Unit prosecuted this case.

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Allison Tussey

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2 responses to Fraudster Gets 7 Years for $16M Straw Buyer Conspiracy

  1. It has always amassed me what kind of scams are out there and how these people try to cheat the system! I have been a licensed real estate agent in California for 25 years, the majority of the time using my license for mortgage origination. Never have I had any problems, I guess I have a conscious even when the mortgage scandal effected the entire nation and is still effecting us today. Keeping one’s reputation in tact has got more value to me than whatever monetary gains comes from these types of scams!

  2. Multiple different instances of fraud over the course of three years? Of course, why not? I suppose some people just decide to go all-in.

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