Brother-sister team scammed home buyers out of $6 million in down payments for houses that weren’t even for sale

This gives a whole new meaning to the term money well.

A sister team of scammers posing as real estate agents swindled hundreds of potential Southern California homebuyers worth $ 6 million by collecting payments from homes that weren’t even for sale, prosecutors say .

Adolfo Schoneke, 44, of Torrance, California, pleaded guilty to the scam Monday, joining his 39-year-old sister, Blanca Schoneke, who also passed off Bianca Gonzalez, who pleaded guilty to in April.

Both face up to 20 years in federal prison. His lawyer declined to comment, and his attorney did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

The scam dates back to 2013, when the couple teamed up with alleged accomplice Mario Gonzalez, a licensed real estate agent, and began posting homes for sale at below-market prices in an official used sales database. by the runners, prosecutors said. In fact, none of the homes were for sale.

Mario González pleaded guilty to electronic fraud in a related case in 2019 and is scheduled to be convicted along with Blanca González in October. The two are not related. Mario Gonzalez’s lawyer declined to comment.

Because the homes were advertised at such low selling prices, the listings generated substantial interest from buyers.

In some cases, the team tricked homeowners into letting them use their homes for a fee, and then they would organize fake open days for potential buyers, prosecutors say. Sometimes they announced that the houses were being sold without being seen, according to court documents.

Prosecutors say the group often listed the homes as “short-term sales,” meaning they were sold at a price lower than the value of the home’s mortgage, which would require additional bank approvals.

The group would then accept offers (sometimes more than one in a home) and direct buyers to deposit down payments into alleged collateral accounts that the scammers actually controlled.

They would issue sale documents with forged signatures to potential buyers, but then stop by closing the transaction, saying the bank had additional questions and requirements, prosecutors said.

But instead, they would leave with the cash of the buyers, prosecutors said.

For three years, several hundred shoppers were stripped naked, which cost the defendants about $ 6 million, prosecutors said.

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