A Southern California brother-and-sister team were arrested last week on federal charges alleging they orchestrated a $6 million real estate fraud scam in which they listed homes without the owners’ consent and collected money from multiple would-be buyers for each home.
Adolfo Schoneke, 43, of Torrance, and Bianca Gonzalez, 38, along with co-conspirators operated real estate and escrow companies based in Cerritos, La Palma and Long Beach under a variety of names, including MCR and West Coast.
Each pleaded not guilty to a nine-count indictment. If convicted of seven counts of wire fraud and one count each of conspiracy and aggravated identity theft, the pair would face up to 162 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The indictment alleges Schoneke and Gonzalez would list properties that were not for sale, and then market the properties as short sales providing opportunities for purchases at below-market prices.
Listings on the MLS
Using other people’s broker’s licenses, the pair allegedly even listed the properties on the MLS.
As part of the alleged scheme, the co-conspirators accepted multiple offers for each of the not-for-sale properties. They allegedly were able to string along the victims — sometimes for years — by telling them closings were being delayed because lenders needed to approve the purported short sales.
The allegations also include directing office workers to open bank accounts in the office workers’ names. Those accounts were used to receive down payments on the homes and other payments from victims who were convinced to transfer the full “purchase price” to these bank accounts after receiving forged short sale approval letters.
Schoneke and Gonzalez also allegedly directed the office workers to withdraw large amounts of cash from those accounts and give it to them — a procedure that allowed the defendants to take possession of the fraud proceeds while hiding their involvement in the scheme.
Investigators estimate that several hundred victims collectively lost more than $6 million.