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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Couple Call Real Estate ‘Seminar’ a Scam

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) - A California couple say they were victimized by operators of a "real estate seminar" who had them fill out forms describing real estate they owned, then used the information to "brazenly forge" their names and get "a fraudulent $245,000 loan" secured by their property.

Gerald and Marilyn Hays sued a long list of defendants - 12 people and seven corporations - in a racketeering complaint in Orange County Court.

The Hays say the scammers "marketed a 'real estate seminar'" that supposedly would teach "the topic of purchasing properties at a short sale and reselling the properties at a profit."

The complaint continues: "In fact, and unknown to attendees, the 'seminars' were a method used by defendants to advance their fraudulent scheme. At the seminars, guests were asked to fill out questionnaires seeking the identification of real estate that they owned. Defendants' fraudulent purpose in seeking such information was to obtain title and other data concerning the third party's properties. Defendants thereafter used that data in their fraudulent schemes; fraudulently obtaining title insurance for the fraudulent transactions in order to inter alia sell the fraudulently obtained properties to third parties that they in fact did not own; and fraudulently placing 'loans' on unencumbered property that defendants did not own without the true owners' consent.

Plaintiffs attended the seminar described above and identified the property as owned by them and debt free. Thereafter, without plaintiffs' knowledge or consent, defendants perpetrated a scheme to steal plaintiffs' equity in the property," to the tune of $245,000.

The Hays say the defendants "brazenly forged plaintiffs' names to loan documents and trust deeds to cause a fraudulent $245,000 loan to be secured by the property. The loan proceeds were thereafter stolen by defendants. ... The below-identified defendants work together in perpetrating fraudulent real estate schemes throughout California."

The individual defendants are John Shallup, George G. Grachen and his daughter Katie Grachen, Pete Rossell, Robert Yann, Salem Abbadi, Joyce Kim, James A. Santan, Kaffi Botehsazan, Joanna G. Martinez, Edward Park and Aladdin Alsarairah.

The corporate defendants are Financial and Real Estate Services Inc., Above Board Real Estate Solutions, Jo Cal Investments, United Escrow Co., Orange Coast Title Company of Southern California, Bency 26 LLC, and Merchants Bonding Company.

According to the Hays' complaint:

"Defendants' scheme included:

"Opening a fraudulent escrow at defendant United and forging plaintiffs' signatures to the involved escrow documents as part of a $245,000 new 1st trust deed transaction. Defendant Bency, at Defendant Kaffi's directions, was the lender of the $245,000 and fraudulently obtained a first trust deed on the Property without plaintiffs' knowledge or consent.

"Forging plaintiffs' signatures to a 'Letter of Demand' releasing the $245,000 to

defendants and their agents.

"Instructing defendant United through defendant Kim to release $157,500 to defendant Rossel.

"Forging plaintiffs' signatures to an August 17, 2011 'Letter of Demand' instructing that $32,500 be paid to defendant Financial and Real Estate Services.

"Forging plaintiffs' signatures on multiple United documents, including purported 'Escrow Amendment/Supplements;['] 'Refinance Escrow Instructions;' and deeds.

"Using a fraudulent notary to notarize the forgeries of plaintiffs' signatures.

"Fraudulently obtaining title insurance from defendant Orange Coast."

Copies of the allegedly forged documents are cited as Exhibits A through G.

The litany concludes: "As a consequence of defendants' fraudulent scheme, the property became wrongfully encumbered with a $245,000 trust deed thereby depreciating the property's equity by that amount."

The Hays seek quiet title and damages for fraudulent concealment, unfair trade, conversion, civil RICO, and negligence; they also want recovery of a $15,000 notary bond.

They are represented by Jeffrey Benice, of Costa Mesa, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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