A california man was sentenced to nine years in federal prison for his part in a $6 million real estate scam in which houses were listed without the consent of the owners and money was collected from potential buyers.
Adolfo Schoneke, 45, was sentenced Oct. 24 after pleading guilty in May to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. His sister and his co-conspirator, Bianca Gonzalez, 39, pleaded guilty to the same charge in April and her sentencing is scheduled for May 2023.
Schoneke, his sister, and their accomplices operated real estate and escrow companies based in Cerritos, La Palma, and Long Beach under various names, including MCR and West Coast Realty Services. They found properties to put up for sale despite having no intention of selling and many of the properties were not for sale.
Properties are listed in real estate websites and marketed as short–sales opportunities at prices below the market. Some homes were marketed through organized open houses by tricking homeowners into allowing use of their homes.
“The Fraud Scheme [Schoneke] invented, proposed to his co-conspirators, and carried out involving uniquely devious means designed to steal money from as many victims as possible,” read a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors. , [Schoneke] figured out a way to ‘sell’ houses that weren’t his and didn’t have any businesses listed for sale.
Victims were led to believe that their offer on a house was the only one that was accepted, despite multiple offers being accepted for houses that were not actually for sale.
Co-conspirators skewered victims, for years in some cases, claiming closings were delayed because lenders needed to approve alleged short sales.
The office employees opened bank accounts to hide the co-conspirators’ involvement in the fraud. The accounts were used to receive down payments on homes and other payments from victims who were convinced to transfer the full “purchase price” after receiving forged short sale approval letters.
The co-conspirators ordered clerks to withdraw large amounts of money from these accounts, making it difficult to trace the proceeds.
As part of the scheme, Schoneke and his co-conspirators raised over $11.7 million of some 750 victims, according to the sentencing memorandum. Some victims were reimbursed, but the scheme caused more than $6 million in losses to nearly 400 victims.
A restitution hearing is scheduled for December 12, according to the US attorney’s office.
Co-conspirator Mario Gonzalez, 50, pleaded guilty in a related case in January 2019 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 3, 2023. He is not related to Bianca Gonzalez.