Archives For forged deeds

Daniel Deaibes was sentenced today to 24 months for his role in a scheme to steal title to Southern California homes and then “sell” the properties to unsuspecting buyers – before the buyers realized who the true owners were.

From September 2012 through their arrest in November 2014, Deaibes and his co-conspirators, including co-defendants Mazen Alzoubi and Mohamed Daoud, fraudulently sold or attempted to sell at least 15 homes worth more than $3.6 million that actually never belonged to them. On at least 10 occasions, they were successful—earning illicit proceeds of nearly $2.2 million.

Deaibes pleaded guilty in March 2015 to participating in the fraud and was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant. As part of this plea, Deaibes admitted that he used aliases to deceive escrow and title officers into believing that he was “John Moran,” and that he was the true owner of property that was being marketed for sale. In fact, “John Moran” did not exist, and Deaibes and his co-conspirators planned to fraudulently sell the properties, divert the proceeds to their own bank accounts, and then quickly disburse the money overseas.  On at least three occasions, Deaibes, posing as “Moran” and presenting a fake driver’s license, appeared before notaries to sign title documents and property deeds.

To make it appear that they owned these properties, the co-conspirators generated forged deeds that made it appear the true property owner had sold his or her home to a sham real estate “investment” business the co-conspirators controlled. They forged the true owners’ signatures on the deeds, and used forged notary stamps to make them appear legitimate. In reality, though, the true owners were entirely unaware of the pretend sales. Once the fraudulent documents were recorded in the chain of title, Alzoubi (using aliases and stolen identities) listed the properties for sale, posing to buyers, escrow companies, and title officers as the new owner.  In this way, the co-conspirators collected all the proceeds of the sale, and the true owners were left with nothing.

Alzoubi, the ringleader of the fraudulent scheme, assumed multiple fake identities to keep the scheme going.  He also posed as real people, pretending on one occasion that he was an attorney for one of the true owners.  (Unbeknownst to Alzoubi at the time, he was talking to an undercover federal agent.)  As a result of his greater role in the scheme, Alzoubi was charged with, and in January 2016 pleaded guilty to, aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison in addition to his sentence for the fraud and money laundering.  His sentencing is scheduled for November 7, 2016, at 9:00 am, before Judge Bashant.

Mohamed Daoud also pleaded guilty, in July 2015, admitting that he helped Alzoubi launder the proceeds of the scheme. They used Daoud’s company, “Norway LLC,” to pretend to acquire title to some of the properties. Daoud received approximately $270,000 in proceeds. In December 2015, before he was sentenced, Daoud fled the country and is now a fugitive.

Most of the properties the co-conspirators “sold” were post-foreclosure properties owned by banks or institutions such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Schemes like this one undermine the public’s confidence in their most personal and important investment, their homes,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “I am committed to prosecuting people who continue to prey on the victims of the devastating mortgage meltdown, and sending those criminals to prison.”

This scheme was designed to literally rip home ownership right out of the hands of innocent victims, and for those victims the costs were far greater than a title to a house,” said Leslie P. DeMarco, Special Agent in Charge, Western Region. “This scheme is callous and the perpetrators deserve the punishment set out for them. FHFA-OIG remains committed to our relentless pursuit of individuals who try to profit from the aftermath of the housing crisis.”

Fraud targeting a family’s home, the heart of a family’s financial investment, has a ripple effect through our nation’s economy,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum.  “The FBI is committed to investigate and uncover schemes by those who defraud homeowners.”

In addition to his jail sentence, Deaibes was ordered to pay $1,819,591 in restitution to the victims of the fraud.

DEFENDANT:

Daniel Deaibes, 14CR3325-BAS                 Age: 38           Rancho Cucamonga, CA     

COUNT ONE: Mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341

Maximum Penalties: 20 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine or twice the pecuniary gain or loss resulting from the offense, $100 special assessment, restitution.

CO-DEFENDANTS:

Mazen Alzoubi, 14CR3325-BAS                 Age: 33           Rancho Cucamonga, CA     

COUNT ONE: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349.

Maximum Penalties: 20 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine or twice the pecuniary gain or loss resulting from the offense, $100 special assessment, restitution, and forfeiture.

COUNT TWO: Mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341.

Maximum Penalties: 20 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine or twice the pecuniary gain or loss resulting from the offense, $100 special assessment, restitution.

COUNTS THREE AND FOUR: Aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A.

Maximum Penalties: mandatory 2 years’ imprisonment, consecutive to any other term of imprisonment, $250,000 fine, $100 special assessment, restitution.

COUNT FIVE: Conspiracy to launder money, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h).

Maximum Penalties: 20 years’ imprisonment, $500,000 fine or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, $100 special assessment, restitution, and forfeiture.

Mohamed Daoud, 14CR3326-BAS             Age: 53           Norway

COUNT ONE: Conspiracy to launder money, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h)

Maximum Penalties: 20 years’ imprisonment, $500,000 fine or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, $100 special assessment, restitution, and forfeiture.

AGENCIES

Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Mazen Alzoubi, real estate investor, 32, Rancho Cucamonga, California, pled guilty to conspiracy, mail fraud and identity theft, admitting that he orchestrated a scheme to steal title to Southern California homes and then sell the properties to unsuspecting buyers before the true owners could put a stop to the sale.

Alzoubi admitted that from May 2012 through August 2014, he and several co-conspirators fraudulently sold or attempted to sell at least 15 homes worth more than $3.6 million. On at least ten occasions, Alzoubi admitted, he was successful—earning illicit proceeds of nearly $2.2 million, which he then laundered and diverted to overseas bank accounts to ensure that the fraudulently-obtained proceeds could never be recovered. Continue Reading…

Ray M. Mubarak, 56, Knoxville, Tennessee, was sentenced to serve 57 months in prison for conducting a scheme to defraud financial institutions and engaging in an unlawful monetary transaction with fraudulently-obtained loan proceeds.  He was also ordered to pay $1,993,938.44 in restitution to three banks and a title insurance company that lost money as a result of the scheme.

Mubarak pleaded guilty in May 2015 to federal charges stemming from his scheme to defraud multiple banks into loaning him over $6 million. He submitted false tax returns and personal financial statements which grossly inflated his income and net worth in order to qualify for the loans. Mubarak also admitted to defrauding the banks by causing them to rely on a fraudulent title opinion letter and forged loan closing documents and deeds.

The trial for Mubarak’s co-defendants, Dianna Mubarak and Blythe Bond Sanders, III, is scheduled for March 1, 2016.

Marbarak was sentenced by the Honorable Pamela L. Reeves, U.S. District Judge.  The investigation was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The investigation and prosecution of Mubarak was coordinated with the Office of the District Attorney General, 6th Judicial District.  Matthew T. Morris, Assistant U.S. Attorney, represented the United States.

John Michael DiChiara, 57, Nevada City, California; James C. Castle, 51, formerly of Santa Rosa, California; Remus A. Kirkpatrick, 58, formerly of Oceanside, California; George B. Larsen, 54, formerly of San Rafael, California; Laura Pezzi, 59, Roseville, California; Larry Todt, 63, formerly of Malibu, California; and Michael Romano, 68, Benicia, California, were charged by a federal grand jury in a 42-count indictment, with conspiracy, bank fraud, false making of documents, and money laundering in connection with a mortgage elimination scheme. Tisha Trites, 49, San Diego, California and Todd Smith, 44, San Diego, California, pleaded guilty to related charges before U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. on September 4, 2015.

DiChiara was arrested in Cool, California. Pezzi and Romano were arrested at their homes. The other four defendants listed in the indictment have yet to be arrested. Continue Reading…

Authorities in Lansing, Michigan recently advised home buyers to beware of a Craig’s List home selling scam where scam artists meet potential home buyers at a home they do not actually own and take payments from the buyer.  This scam is operating across the country and is not limited to properties in Lansing Michigan.  (It is also being perpetrated against potential renters who are “rented” homes that are not owned by the scammers.)

In the Craig’s List scams, a home buyer can generally protect themselves by depositing the earnest money with their own real estate agent or with an escrow company rather than handing money over to the scammers.  The fact that the scammers don’t actually own the property will be discovered during the title search that is conducted while the sales transaction is pending.

This is not the only scam that involves fake sales.  In another common scam, fake sellers actually forge quit claim deeds and ‘transfer’ the property to themselves.  Sometimes these scammers also rent the property from the real owners so that they can ‘show’ the property to potential buyers.

Looking at current ownership in these fake sales transactions may not be enough.  Home buyers and real estate professionals also need to look at the last transactions recorded against title to the property.  If the property has recently transferred by way of quit clam deed, a little more due diligence may be in order before handing over the earnest money deposit or purchasing the property. It is as easy as contacting the “prior” record title holder – who may not even be aware that their property has been transferred.  Quit claim transfers are not always fraudulent.  And fake transfer can be done by way of regular grant deeds.  We just see more fake transfers by quit claim.

In the Craig’s List scam, the fake sellers walk away with the earnest money deposit or down payment.  In a fake sales transaction, if it is not detected by the title company, the scammers walk away with the entire purchase price.

If a homeowner falls for one of these fake sales transactions and purchases a property that doesn’t actually belong to the seller and was transferred by way of a forged deed, the new homeowner’s only real recourse will be their title insurance policy.