Articles Tagged with scam

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A federal investigation of a company in Irvine that offers financial and insurance services has led to charges for three executives of the firm who have allegedly been found to have stolen investments totaling over $4 million from several elderly clients.

50-year-old Mehmet Fatih Biyikoglu is the CEO and founder of Five Star Financial Services, LLC, a financial management and insurance firm in Orange County. 58-year-old Anna Marie Holt serves as the company’s president and chief operating officer, and Ida Shaghoian, 38, was a sales agent who was also once married to Biyikoglu.

The company practices have been under investigation that has led to accusations against Biyikoglu, Holt, and Shaghoian purporting that between 2014 and 2015 they recruited clients, typically elderly people, and assured them that if they invested into certificates of deposit they would earn significant returns. Instead of taking the clients’ money and putting it into a JP Morgan Chase Bank CD account as promised, the suspects have been accused of taking over $4 million in investments and using the cash for personal items such as real estate, jewelry, and expensive automobiles.

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An ex-insurance agent from San Clemente has been accused of using fraudulent practices to profit off of investments he made for at least six elderly clients in Southern California.

55-year-old Mark Malatesta, a man employed as a licensed insurance agent, was taken into custody on Monday after the California Department of Insurance detectives found what they believe is supporting evidence that he was taking part in a monetary ruse which cost his former clients over $1.6 million. The alleged victims were reported as senior citizens, who are said to be a target demographic of an increasing number of deceptions designed to cheat them out of their money, as reported by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

Malatesta has been accused of a procedure called “churning,” wherein a broker who typically has permission to make independent determinations on how to invest money from the client’s account performs transactions “chiefly to generate commissions that benefit the broker,” as described by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

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After an FBI investigation into what they believe is a fraudulent operation targeting homeowners facing foreclosure by offering low interest loan modifications, three men from Southern California are facing federal charges as suspects in the alleged hoax.

At the start of 2014 under the name Hope Services, homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure were offered deals for modifying their loans in order to assist them and stop the seizure of their properties. The potential clients were told they were preapproved for the process and they were asked to submit three payments, which would be held in an account, in order to complete the new loan agreements.

Toward the end of 2014 many complaints were received about Hope Services from people who had submitted payments and did not receive their modified loans as promised. The alleged scam operation then changed their name to HAMP Services, which has the same acronym as an existing government program for home loan modification, and they continued to solicit services to new victims until April 2015.

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A 67-year-old man is facing hundreds of counts of wire fraud and money laundering for alleged participation as what police call a “middle man” in a common type of email scam dubbed “Nigerian prince.”

These shams, so named for many of them originating in Nigeria though they happen all over the world, typically connive people out of personal information such as bank account numbers under the pretense that they are assisting someone from Nigerian royalty in transferring money to the United States. The scammer then offers compensation for their aid. Law enforcement stated that investigating this type of crime poses challenges, “as many leads have led to individuals who live outside of the United States.”

After an 18-month and still ongoing investigation, police arrested Michael Neu on November 28 as they believed he was working with associates in Nigeria and serving as an intermediator in the fraudulent operations.

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Louisville resident Kingsley I. Ekpendu has been accused of targeting elderly people using a hoax consisting of telling them they had won cash prizes in a sweepstakes. He allegedly extorted money from the assumed winners after sending them counterfeit checks to deposit into their bank accounts. He then asked that they overnight money to a specified address. It is suspected that he was able to con hundreds of thousands of dollars from people in this manner.

Police stated that between September 2 and October 4 Ekpendu allegedly mailed letters to three or more addresses announcing they were winners of the Publishers Clearing House Super Cash Giveaway. The letters held fraudulent checks for amounts between $6,000 and $8,000, and instructions to deposit the check and overnight mail an amount ranging from $5,200 to $7,000 in order to claim their winnings.

Law enforcement received information from a local shipping company who became suspicious of the number and size of the packages being delivered to an address that appeared to be a vacant dwelling. Ekpendu received the first two of the three packages, and police intervened before he was able to get the third.

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Angel Bronsgeest, a 55 year old woman from Lake Forest, plead guilty on Monday to federal charges of being involved in a real estate scam that cost Southern California investors $3.5 million, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.

Bronsgeest admitted that she, along with Shawn Watkins, a 46 year old man from Utah, would allegedly solicit the victims at Orange County hotel seminars and ask them to invest in their company, The Equity Growth Group. The two claimed that their company managed hundreds of properties, generating income from their rents, which was used to buy new properties. The investors were told they would be getting interest payments and that their money was secured by collateral through filing deeds of property trusts.

“Investor money was not used to acquire new properties, nor was it secured by collateral, and many victims did not receive interest payments. In fact, money that was paid to some victims as purported interest or a return on their investment came from investments made by other victims,” the Attorney’s Office said in a statement.