Press Release Date:
April 19, 2011
District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that Alonzo Gene McCowan (DOB 7/5/60) has been sentenced after pleading guilty to three felony counts arising out of a series of real estate transactions. The crimes are alleged to have occurred during the period of October 2004 through September 2006, but were not discovered until January 2008. The crimes for which McCowan pled guilty to are theft of real property from an elder, money laundering, and grand theft. McCowan also admitted as true special allegations of taking in excess of $500,000 in a series of related felonies involving fraud. In a negotiated disposition, McCowan was ordered to serve 365 days in the Ventura County jail. He may serve this sentence in the Work Furlough Program if approved by the Probation Agency. He will be on formal probation for 13 years, during which he must pay a minimum $1,000 per month restitution to an elderly victim, Leo G. The total restitution owed to Leo G. is $349,100, plus 10 percent interest annually on any unpaid balance. Should McCowan pay the entire balance owed, his probation grant may be terminated after a minimum five years have passed. Restitution in favor of Steel Mountain Capital, a commercial lender, is to be determined at a restitution hearing set for June 20, 2011. McCowan must remand to the Ventura County jail on May 16, 2011.
McCowan was charged with six felonies arising from three distinct real estate transactions. In the first transaction, McCowan entered into an agreement to purchase a home owned free and clear by the elderly victim and his now deceased wife. While the victim believed that his private financing of the transaction was secured by a $450,000 recorded deed of trust, McCowan gained access to approximately $420,000 of the property’s equity by taking out a different loan from a commercial lender. The result of this transaction was the elderly victim’s debt was effectively wiped out by a now superior deed of trust owed to the commercial lender and the property was encumbered by two loans equaling approximately $870,000 in debt.
In two other transactions, McCowan obtained other houses by making false and misleading statements to other lenders about his income, financial condition and ability to repay loans used to acquire the properties. As a result, commercial lenders made loans of $336,000 and $115,000 in reliance on these misrepresentations. One property was sold just prior to foreclosure and the other was foreclosed upon.
The discovery in this case exceeds 16,000 pages and, in light of the complex factual nature of real estate fraud cases and this case in particular, the District Attorney’s Office prepared an eight-page document entitled “People’s Factual Basis Summary for Guilty Plea” which was filed with the court at today’s sentencing hearing. This factual summary was filed to further augment the record regarding the factual basis for the plea and the basis for dismissal of charges against co-defendant Kimberly McCowan pursuant to Penal Code section 1385. The following paragraphs are quoted from the factual summary filed with the court:
Conclusions Drawn From These Real Estate Transactions
Mr. McCowan’s consensual use of his wife’s identity and credit profile to acquire real estate financing is consistent with that of a “straw buyer,” which is somebody who allows their credit to be used to buy property with no intention of residing in the home. (R.T. pp. 127-128). While the role of a straw buyer may range from innocent victim to complicit participant, the true nature of Mrs. McCowan’s role in the present case was not clarified until the evidence [obtained during preliminary hearing and pursuant to subsequent subpoenas] was obtained and analyzed. Certain material documents bearing questionable signatures of Mrs. McCowan were not available until they were received into evidence at the preliminary hearing after being subpoenaed to court. Taken in conjunction with the statements of both Mr. and Mrs. McCowan and the subsequent analysis of these loan documents and bank records, the most reasonable conclusion is that Mr. McCowan indeed has historically managed not only the acquisition and financing of these various real properties, but that he exerts day-to-day control over all significant financial accounts, and used his wife’s identity to further his criminal conduct.
In reaching this negotiated resolution, Mr. McCowan agreed to accept responsibility for the 613 Dunkirk transaction financed in his wife’s name by pleading guilty to money laundering in count seven of the Amended Information filed on February 16, 2011. The circumstances of the offenses discussed in the Probation Report at pages 5 through 19, as well as the facts summarized herein, demonstrate there is substantial evidence of Mr. McCowan’s guilt for all the counts charged against him. Mr. McCowan freely and voluntarily admitted his guilt to the above-described conduct at the time of his plea. Any other inference drawn from extraneous comments made about the basis for Mr. McCowan’s guilty pleas in this case are misguided or based upon ignorance of the truth.
Miles Weiss, Senior Deputy District Attorney