Woman Jailed for Running Foreclosure Assistance Scam

Allison Tussey —  June 27, 2013 — Leave a comment

Tara Denise Bonelli, 33, Santa Cruz, California, was sentenced to 37 months in prison by United States District Judge Edward J. Davila in San Jose, California, on June 25, 2013, for defrauding investors of over $3,000,000.

On February 12, 2013, Bonelli pleaded guilty in federal court to Wire Fraud, in violation of 18 USC § 1343. Bonelli admitted that, beginning no later than May 2006, and continuing to at least until October 2008, she promoted false and fraudulent real estate investments by knowingly making false promises about how investor funds were to be invested and repaid.

According to her plea, in May 2004, Bonelli founded Vista Holding Company, a holding company that owned and operated eight entities, including Vista Funding, Inc., a pre-foreclosure services company that helped refinance properties or purchased properties to develop, rent, and/or sell; Independent Financial, a company that bought mortgage notes from banks; Equity Advisors, a mortgage company that matched lenders with borrowers; Bonelli Properties, a real estate company; Lost Dollar Services, a company formed to facilitate collection of homeowner overages; Equity Inquiries, a real estate research company; Outlook Enterprises, a development company; and Sovereign Property Management, a property management company. Although Bonelli established all of these entities under Vista Holding Company, she primarily conducted business under Vista Funding Inc., and controlled all of its business transactions.

In furtherance of her scheme, Bonelli told investors that their money would be used to purchase properties for resale or conversion to condominiums, and to engage in the business of foreclosure assistance. In some instances, to lure their investments, Bonelli promised a return of up to 1000%. Rather than use investor money for the stated purpose, Bonelli used some of the investor funds to pay for her personal expenses.

Bonelli was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 16, 2011. She was charged with eighteen counts of Wire Fraud, in violation of 18 United States Code § 1343. Under the plea agreement, Bonelli pleaded guilty to one count that encompassed the loss due to fraud in all of the counts, which was over $3,000,000. The sentencing court also ordered that Bonelli pay restitution in an amount to be settled at a hearing to be held on August 5, 2013, at 3:00 p.m. before Judge Davila in San Jose.

United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced the sentence.

Matt Parrella and Susan Knight are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Elise Etter. The prosecution is the result of a 2-year investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division.

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