While there are people and companies in the business of modifying loans or helping prevent foreclosure that are licensed, legitimate, and qualified, the Department of Real Estate (DRE) advises all homeowners that you must be cautious.
- VENTURA, California – District Attorney Gregory D. Totten warned today that county residents should be extra vigilant about mortgage, forbearance, and loan modification scams as financial predators seek to exploit the current COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 virus, last month alone, mortgage forbearance requests increased by approximately 2000 percent. Such conditions are ripe for financial predators seeking to exploit desperate homeowners with false promises of assistance to delay their overdue mortgage payments.
The District Attorney recommends the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of this type of fraud:
- Never pay any person or business for mortgage or forbearance assistance, including the negotiation of a new, lower mortgage payment. It is unlawful for any entity to charge an advance fee to negotiate on a borrower’s behalf with a lender. Borrowers should contact their lender directly to discuss forbearance options, and never go through a third party.
- Never sign a deed that transfers any portion of home ownership to another person or entity as part of a mortgage assistance or forbearance scheme.
- Never make any portion of a mortgage payment to anyone other than your lender. Such payments are never passed on to the lender and this often unnecessarily triggers foreclosure proceedings that otherwise may never have commenced.
- Never stop making mortgage payments to your lender on the advice of a mortgage or forbearance “expert.”
- Be wary of mailed or telephonic advertisements promising mortgage or forbearance assistance. Legitimate assistance will not come to a borrower, it must instead be sought out.
- Homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage payment should contact their lender directly to learn what assistance programs may be available.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has also announced that the Federal Housing Administration is offering various mortgage relief options for FHA mortgage borrowers affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Details are available at www.hud.gov/answers.
Finally, county residents that need further information on mortgage forbearance scams can contact the District Attorney’s Office Real Estate Fraud Unit directly at (805) 662-1750, or obtain a complaint form at the District Attorney’s website located at www.vcdistrictattorney.com.
VENTURA, California – District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that James Anthony Rojas (DOB 1/11/57), of Murrieta, was sentenced to 13 years 8 months in state prison by Judge David Worley. The sentence imposed was the maximum allowed by law. Rojas had previously been found guilty of nine felony counts, including foreclosure consultant fraud, grand theft, and recording false documents following a court trial in January. The investigation and prosecution of Rojas was conducted by the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit.
Rojas targeted real estate owned by five senior citizens in Ventura County. Victims ranged in age from 69 to 90 years old. Using various schemes, Rojas targeted victim properties with false liens and deeds that clouded lawful title to each affected property. Rojas swindled one elderly victim by convincing him to sign a deed outside of escrow for property Rojas promised to purchase for $1.8 million. Rojas then recorded the deed without paying the victim anything in return. Rojas has prior convictions for real estate fraud, including grand theft, forgery, and recording false documents. He currently has similar charges pending against him in Los Angeles and Alameda Counties.
In addition to his 13-year 8-month prison sentence, Rojas was also ordered to pay victim restitution and fined $500,000 by the court.
VENTURA, California – District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Debra Elaine Ashcraft (DOB 11/23/57), of Camarillo, was sentenced to 180 days in the Ventura County jail for income tax evasion. The charges were the result of an investigation conducted by the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit and the California Franchise Tax Board.
Ashcraft structured payments and bank deposits of real estate commissions she earned to avoid triggering mandatory bank reporting requirements in order to conceal her income from tax authorities. The law requires banks to report transactions exceeding $10,000. She also failed to file California income tax returns for the tax years 2013 through 2017.
Ashcraft was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $78,000 to the California Franchise Tax Board and placed on formal felony probation for 60 months.
VENTURA, California – District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today the filing of a criminal complaint against Megan Elizabeth Zucaro (DOB 7/11/70), of Thousand Oaks, charging one felony count of grand theft, one felony count of diversion of construction funds, and one felony count of money laundering. The investigation and prosecution of Zucaro was conducted by the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit.
Zucaro, a real estate agent licensed by the California Department of Real Estate, is accused of misappropriating approximately $165,000 in loan proceeds. Zucaro convinced a 90-year-old victim to give her a 50 percent interest in his property in order to obtain a loan to develop the property on his behalf. Zucaro paid nothing in return for her interest in the property, which has an estimated value of $2 million. After being added on to the property’s title, Zucaro used it as collateral for a loan with net proceeds of $165,000. Within 30 days of receiving the $165,000, Zucaro allegedly spent these funds on personal expenses unrelated to the victim’s property development.
Arraignment is scheduled March 5, 2020, at 9:00 a.m. in courtroom 12 of the Ventura County Superior Court. Zucaro is currently in custody with bail set at $500,000. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 3 years 8 months in prison.
VENTURA, California – District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Sasha Carrillo (DOB 11/11/85), of Los Angeles County, has been charged with one felony count of recording a false instrument. The charge is the result of an investigation conducted by the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit acting on a report from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office previously arrested Carrillo’s boyfriend, Shane Michael Spring, for narcotics and weapons offenses. During the investigation, law enforcement
determined Carrillo hoped to gain Spring’s release from the Ventura County jail by posting his bail. Using fraudulent paperwork, Carrillo convinced a bail company that she personally owned a home in La Verne that was in fact owned by Carrillo’s uncle.
Carrillo then signed a deed of trust that made the home collateral for Spring’s bail bond. The deed of trust that Carrillo signed was subsequently recorded at the Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office. The bail bond that was fraudulently obtained by Carrillo was then posted with the Ventura County Superior Court resulting in Spring’s release from jail. After Spring’s release, he failed to appear in court, putting the true homeowner at risk of foreclosure. Carrillo will be arraigned on March 13, 2020, at 1:30 p.m. in courtroom 14 of the Ventura County Superior Court. Carrillo currently remains in custody with bail set at $500,000. She faces a sentence of up to three years in jail if convicted.
VENTURA, California – District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that James Anthony Rojas (DOB 1/11/57), of Riverside, was found guilty of nine felony counts, including foreclosure consultant fraud, grand theft, and recording false documents by Judge David Worley following a court trial. Judge Worley also found true a special allegation that Rojas caused losses exceeding $500,000. The investigation and prosecution of Rojas was conducted by the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit.
VENTURA, California –District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Debra Elaine Ashcraft (DOB 11/23/57), of Camarillo, pled guilty to one felony count of failing to file a California tax return.
VENTURA, California- District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Santa Clarita resident Cory Evans (DOB 11/07/78), has been charged with two felony counts of attempted grand theft by false pretenses and two felony counts of attempted financial elder abuse. The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the Ventura County District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit, acting on a referral from Ventura County Adult Protective Services.
Evans is a co-owner of HomeVestors, an independently owned “We Buy Ugly Houses” franchise. HomeVestors offers to purchase homes for cash in “as-is” condition. Evans is accused of providing false information to two separate elderly homeowners to induce them to sign contracts for Home Vestors to purchase their homes. Both victims, aged 72 and 76, are Camarillo residents. When each victim attempted to cancel their contract, Home Vestors threatened civil litigation. Evans is scheduled to be arraigned on February 4, 2020, at 9:00 a.m., in courtroom 12 of the Ventura County Superior Court.
2019 REFAT Annual Fraud Awareness Forum:
This is an educational event brought to you by REFAT and geared to real estate professionals. REFAT’s mission is to prevent, detect and report real estate fraud. We strive to accomplish this through education.
The Real Estate Advisory Team (REFAT) is a unique collaboration between the Ventura County District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit and Ventura County real estate professionals.
The combined knowledge and expertise of these volunteer team members help identify the types of frauds taking place, striving to educate people about the ever-changing tactics of scammers who seek to take advantage of Ventura County residents.
Date and Time:
Tue, October 22, 2019
11:30 AM – 1:15 PM PDT
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