Nine Arrested and Indicted in Alleged $6 Million Southern California Mortgage Relief Scheme
SACRAMENTO – On November 19, 2020, the California Attorney General’s Office announced the arrest and arraignment of nine people on 136 felony counts for allegedly operating an advance fee mortgage relief scam that claimed to prevent the foreclosure of properties throughout Southern California.
The alleged scheme impacted multiple victims, resulted in a loss of approximately $6 million, and affected more than 200 properties; including properties with loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), as well as loan servicers Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae. Each defendant pleaded not guilty at their arraignment.
The arrests were the result of a joint investigation by the:
- California Department of Justice’s Division of Law Enforcement’s White-Collar Investigation Team
- Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG)
- United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG)
- Riverside County Sheriff’s Gang Impact Team assisted in the arrests
- and further assistance was provided by the United States Trustee Program.
“People who prey on homeowners experiencing tough financial times and who are in fear of losing their homes will be held accountable,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA). “ Thank you to the agents and investigators who put a stop to this predatory and criminal behavior!”
“Individuals who choose to prey on vulnerable Californians at risk of losing their homes will be held accountable,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute those who disregard the law in order to make a profit.”
On October 30, 2020, the following people were indicted by a grand jury in the Los Angeles County Superior Court for grand theft, filing of false or forged documents in a public office, identity theft, theft from an elder, and conspiracy to commit grand theft, as well as a special allegation for aggravated white-collar crime.
- Eduardo Toro,
- Ana Cecilia Toro,
- Veronica Romero (aka Veronica Marquez),
- Veronica Toro,
- Filiverto Gomez,
- Leticia Mora,
- Maria Gil,
- Emmanuel Lopez,
- and Gladys Velasquez.
Between 2010 and 2019, the defendants allegedly conspired to defraud lenders and homeowners of possession of residential properties. As part of the scheme, the group allegedly targeted distressed homeowners claiming they could stop the foreclosure of their home if they made monthly payments to the defendants. Instead, the defendants delayed foreclosures and eviction actions by filing allegedly fraudulent bankruptcy documents, false court documents, and false fractional interest grant deeds. They sent these documents to the servicers of mortgage loans, which would stop the foreclosure by invoking the bankruptcy “automatic stay.” Many homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure despite paying the defendants hundreds of dollars a month over the course of many years.
A copy of the indictment is available here.
Former O.C. Physician Assistant Admits to Knowingly Writing Opioid Prescriptions to Dealers Who Later Sold the Drugs on the Street California Department of Health Care Services assisted with this investigation
SANTA ANA – On November 18, 2020, a former physician assistant at a Fountain Valley medical clinic pleaded guilty to a federal charge that he conspired to issue and sell prescriptions for oxycodone, a highly addictive opioid painkiller, without a medical purpose, to drug dealers, knowing the drugs would be sold on the street.
Raif Wadie Iskander, 54, formerly of Ladera Ranch, but who now resides in Ennis, Montana, pleaded guilty via video conference to one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.
According to his plea agreement, from 2018 to April 2019, Iskander, who was a licensed physician assistant in California, wrote prescriptions for “patients” he had never met or examined, including an undercover law enforcement officer. Iskander provided to drug dealers multiple paper prescriptions that he had signed, but with the patient names left blank, to be filled in by drug dealers later.
In exchange for cash, Iskander wrote fraudulent oxycodone prescriptions for co-defendants Johnny Gilbert Alvarez, 40, a.k.a. “M.J.,” of Santa Ana, and Adam Anton Roggero, 37, of Costa Mesa, who sold the prescribed drugs on the street as well as to an undercover officer, according to the plea agreement.
“We place a great deal of trust in our medical professionals and expect that they will fulfill their oath to put the health, safety, welfare and dignity of all, first,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Contributing to the growing problem of prescription drug abuse goes against that oath and hurts individuals and communities.”
Iskander admitted he knew that the oxycodone filled from the prescriptions would be sold to drug customers who were not using the oxycodone for legitimate medical purposes and whom defendant had never met or examined.
Iskander is scheduled to be sentenced on April 26, 2021, at which time he will face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Roggero pleaded guilty on October 20th to one count of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone. Alvarez is scheduled to go to trial on March 9, 2021.
This matter was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Costa Mesa Police Department, and the California Department of Health Care Services.
Two Men in Los Angeles County Charged with Voter Fraud
LOS ANGELES COUNTY – On November 17, 2020, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced charges have been filed against two men for allegedly submitting thousands of fraudulent voter registration applications on behalf of homeless people.
Carlos Antonio De Bourbon Montenegro, 53, aka Mark Anthony Gonsalves, and Marcos Raul Arevalo, 34, were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit voter fraud, eight counts of voter fraud, four counts of procuring and offering a false or forged instrument and four misdemeanor counts of interference with a prompt transfer of a completed affidavit.
Montenegro faces an additional 10 counts of voter fraud, seven counts of procuring and offering a false or forged instrument, two counts of perjury and five misdemeanor counts of interference with a prompt transfer of a completed affidavit.
Montenegro allegedly submitted more than 8,000 fraudulent voter registration applications between July and October 2020. The defendant also is accused of falsifying names, addresses and signatures on nomination papers under penalty of perjury to run for mayor in the city of Hawthorne.
If convicted as charged, Montenegro faces a possible maximum sentence of 15 years and eight months in state prison, while Arevalo faces a possible maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
The case remains under investigation by the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation.
The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Office, FBI, Covina Police Department and the California Secretary of State’s Office assisted in the initial investigation.
“This is an example of the investigative work that can be accomplished when local, state and federal investigators combine their resources and expertise in various areas of the law,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Thankfully this case of fraud was discovered and investigated.”
Sacramento Area Co-Workers Charged in $30,000 Insurance Fraud Scheme
SACRAMENTO— On November 17, 2020 the California Department of Insurance announced that co-workers Rajdeep Singh, 35, of Rocklin, and David Bailey, Jr., 29, of Sacramento, were arrested on multiple counts of insurance fraud and arson after allegedly conspiring to commit vehicular arson in order to receive an undeserved insurance payout of over $30,000.
On June 24, 2019, Sacramento Fire Department (SFD) responded to a parking lot where a 2016 Honda Pilot was on fire. The morning of the fire, the registered owner’s son, Singh, arrived on the scene and claimed the vehicle had been stolen while he was working at his job, Primetime Autos, a used car dealership where he worked as a finance manager.
Singh filed a claim with his parents’ insurance company on their behalf and during the claims review process gave the insurance company his cell phone call logs. A joint investigation by the California Department of Insurance and SFD revealed the records Singh provided to the insurance company discredited his statement regarding his activities around the time of the fire.
According to the California Department of Insurance, Bailey, who also worked at Primetime Autos, burned the vehicle at Singh’s request. Bailey confessed he received $500 from Singh for the arson. The joint investigation prevented a potential $30,500 loss to the insurance company.
“Auto insurance fraud is a major problem in California as those with criminal intent look at their benefits as free for the taking,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Insurance detectives are very successful in their investigations and have proven that those who commit insurance fraud will be identified and held accountable.”
Singh self-surrendered on October 19, 2020, and Bailey was arrested on October 21, 2020. Singh was charged with one felony count of arson and two felony counts of insurance fraud. Bailey was charged with one felony count of arson and one felony count of insurance fraud. This case is being prosecuted by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.
Porterville Gang Member Sentenced to Life in Prison for Conspiracy Following Operation Red Sol Convictions A California DOJ investigation
TULARE COUNTY - On November 4, 2020, the Tulare County Superior Court sentenced Robert Duran, 39, to 56 years-to-life in prison for conspiracy to commit murder. On December 18, 2018, a jury convicted Duran of conspiracy to commit murder with the special allegation that the crime was for the benefit of a criminal street gang and that one of the conspirators was armed with a gun. Duran possess a prior 2002 strike for gun possession with a gang special allegation.
THE INVESTIGATION: In August and September of 2015, the California Department of Justice and local law enforcement conducted a large-scale wiretap operation named “Operation Red Sol” which targeted the Tulare County Norteno criminal street gang. On October 1, 2015, 52 violent gang members were arrested in the operation. Eighty-two defendants in total were charged with 151 crimes including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery, weapons, and drugs. At over 400 pages, it’s the largest criminal case filed in Tulare County history.
“This was a lengthy investigation that was aimed at suspected violent criminals who impacted the community in a very negative way,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Thanks to California DOJ special agents and their local law enforcement partners, a positive dent was made on the side of public safety.”
THE CRIME: On August 29, 2015, Duran, a member of the Norteno street gang in Porterville, received orders from superior gang members to “take care of” rival gang members. On September 3, 2015, law enforcement intercepted gang members, one of whom was armed with a gun, in a stolen car on their way to a target house in Lindsay. Another gang member, Marcos Nevarez, conducted surveillance of the target. Duran was coordinating the operation by phone. Law enforcement officers arrested both Duran and Nevarez during the gang sweep in October 2015. In 2018, Nevarez was found guilty of gang conspiracy, street terrorism, and other gang related crimes. He was sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison in 2019.
The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Taksa and was primarily investigated by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office and the California Department of Justice with assistance from numerous Tulare County law enforcement agencies.
New CHP Dispatchers Meet Union Representatives at West Sacramento Academy
WEST SACRAMENTO -On November 16, 2020, new CHP dispatchers training at the academy in West Sacramento spent some time getting to know their representatives from the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) and CHP Public Safety Dispatchers Association (CHP-PSDA). CSLEA Senior Counsel Andrea Perez and CHP-PSDA Vice President Victor Tovar introduced themselves to nine dispatchers and spoke about the benefits of union membership.
“In addition to having an amazing support group in CHP-PSDA, dispatchers who sign up for union membership have access to our staff of attorneys and our legal defense fund,” said Perez. “They contribute to an organization that works on their behalf for wages, benefits and working conditions as well as potential legislation and assistance working with management.”
Of special note, the dispatchers have a surprise classmate! Lt. Jo Pini from the Sacramento Communications Center is taking the entire training with them, which has added some extra inspiration.
The dispatchers are from the Sacramento, Golden Gate, Redding, Fresno, and Orange County communications centers. CSLEA and CHP-PSDA extend a warm welcome to their newest members and stand ready to assist them.