Former Billionaire|Faces Prison Charges

     SACRAMENTO (CN) – A former billionaire developer and an escrow officer were charged Thursday with 21 federal counts of wire fraud and other white collar crimes.
     Abolghasseni “Abe” Alizadeh and Mary Weaver falsified the price of million-dollar commercial properties to get exaggerated loans from federally insured banks, prosecutors say in the indictment.
     They are accused of stealing more than $20 million from three banks in four years. They face up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine on each count.
     U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said Thursday that Weaver, who was a loan officer at Placer Title Company in Sacramento, sometimes “dipped into other Placer Title customers’ funds,” to pay for Alizadeh’s business transactions and took kickbacks from Alizadeh in return.
     Weaver, 62, disguised the overpayments for the property and transferred it to Alizadeh’s real estate company, Wagner said.
     “She was a senior representative at Placer, and I think had quite a reputation here in the area for being sort of a big player at Placer and in this kind of industry,” Wagner said at a news conference. “There might have been a range of motives.”
     Alizadeh, 56, was principal partner of Kobra Properties and owned dozens of Jack in the Box and Sonic Burger restaurants in addition to other commercial properties.
     Alizadeh’s assets once were valued at more than $1 billion but he filed for bankruptcy in 2008 during the housing market collapse, according to the indictment.
     Backed by FBI and IRS agents who helped in the investigation, Wagner told reporters that while the allegations took place more than 10 years ago, the statute of limitations has not run out on crimes committed against federally insured banks. Wagner said the investigation is continuing.
     “This is a significant case among the many cases we’ve prosecuted and he was a fairly major player in the industry at that time,” Wagner said.
     The indictment centers around six commercial real estate purchases that took place from 2004-2008, including a $10 million property that Alizadeh bought with a $21 million loan from Bank of the West. The indictment alleges that Bank of the West wired the loan proceeds into an escrow account controlled by Placer Title and managed by Weaver.
     The defendants were expected to turn themselves in Friday morning in Sacramento and are not deemed a flight risk, Wagner said.
     Both are accused of wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud and false statements to a federally insured institution.
     Alizadeh is represented by Malcolm Segal, Weaver by William Portanova. Neither attorney returned requests for comment by press time.

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