VENTURA, Calif. (CN) - An Oxnard woman claims a Bank of America employee helped a felon who had been featured on "America's Most Wanted" use a short-sale real estate scam to dupe her for $60,000.
Renee Allem claims felon Jerry Whittington and Bank of America employee Patricia Torres persuaded her to part with thousands of dollars to save her boyfriend Gerard Fasel's home from foreclosure. Fasel is not a party to the complaint.
"On July 25, 2010, defendant Whittington attended the funeral of Fasel's brother," according to the Superior Court complaint. "Following the service, defendant Whittington pulled plaintiff Allem aside and asked her about the financial situation of Fasel. Plaintiff Allem made mention that Fasel would possibly be required to 'short sale' his house due to Fasel's financial burden of having to care for his two special-needs brothers. In response, defendant Whittington stated that he was 'in bed' with defendant Bank of America and offered to help."
Allem adds: "Defendant Whittington represented himself to be a very successful lawyer for Sony Pictures, the owner of several companies and an avid property investor. Defendant Whittington held himself out to be a regular investor in foreclosure and short sale investments with Bank of America, representing that he personally knew defendant Torres and that with her assistance and position at the Bank of America he was currently buying numerous foreclosure and short sale properties that Torres would 'lock down' way under current market value. Defendant Whittington further represented that Bank of America knew him as an honest and reputable investor.
"In reliance on the representations of defendants and each of them, the plaintiff was convinced by Torres to invest with defendant Whittington and paid the sum of $60,000 to his accounts held by Bank of America only because Torres convinced Allem that Whittington's account was a trust account linked to Bank of America's escrow accounts and that she would transfer the funds once the 'lock down' amount of the property was established by her and Bank of America. Torres further assured Allem that Whittington's account could not be withdrawn for any other purpose.
"Torres represented that she was the person in charge of the short sale division and that all transactions came through her office. Torres further represented that she was able to take certain properties that were on the market for short sale and foreclosure with Bank of America off their books and adjust the selling price far below the market value."
Allem claims that Whittington told her he would buy Fasel's home "out of the 'goodness of his heart,'" and sell it back to her, if she wired him $20,000 to "lock down" the property. Allem says she paid that, then paid another $8,640 she had to borrow from her family, believing she was arranging to repurchase Fasel's home once the short sale was complete. She says Whittington wormed other payments out of her, for one reason or another, of $5,350, $2,600, $16,430, and $6,800.
Then she found she had been taken to the cleaners: "A couple of week later, plaintiff realized that she had been deceived by both defendant Whittington and defendant Torres when she learned that defendant Whittington had served time in federal prison and had been profiled on the television show 'America's Most Wanted' for fraud, grand theft and the sale of military helicopters to foreign countries amongst others. The U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation has investigated this matter as Case No. 329A-LA-258845."
Allem adds: "Whittington is not a lawyer nor an investor. Defendant Whittington is a convicted felon who served time in a federal prison, has multiple aliases and was prosecuted for among other crimes, impersonating a lawyer and fraud.
"Defendant Whittington had not invested any of Allem's money in the represented properties with Bank of America, nor was he the reputable investor Torres, an employee of Bank of America, made him out to be.
"Plaintiff after numerous demands, received only $6,000.00 through wire transfer from defendant Whittington. The sum of $54,000.00 continues to be due and outstanding."
Allem's attorney Scott Kudler told Courthouse News that Whittington would be difficult to locate and serve "because he's an ex federal felon."
"The fact is Torres was associated with Whittington in regards to the money that was defrauded from my client, and Torres was an employee of Bank of America," Kudler said.
Allem seeks restitution and punitive damages for conversion, fraud and deceit, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty, and imposition of a constructive trust.
Bank of America did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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