A Southern California brother and sister were charged with running a $6 million scam in which they marketed homes that weren’t for sale, then collected multiple down payments on the same properties. Victims in some cases were strung along for years, authorities said.
Federal law enforcement arrested Adolfo Schoneke of Torrance and Bianca Gonzalez — also known as Blanca Schoneke — of Walnut, according to the City News Service.
Schoneke and Gonzalez allegedly ran real estate and escrow companies out of several cities in the Los Angeles area, including two companies identified only as MCR and West Coast, according to the report.
The pair advertised fake home listings in an attempt to defraud buyers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. Schoneke and Gonzalez listed properties on websites like the Multiple Listing Services even though the homes were not for sale; the actual owners knew nothing about what they were doing.
The siblings allegedly marketed the homes at below-market prices, then took multiple down payments from interested buyers, telling each that their offer was the only one accepted. In some cases, Schoneke and Gonzalez were able to convince victims to transfer the full purchase price of a property over to them, according to the indictment.
The pair deposited the funds into bank accounts under their employees’ names, and later directed the employees to transfer them large amounts of cash, the report noted.
Prosecutors said the pair were able to string along some victims for years by telling them that closings and other related activities were delayed.
Schoneke and Gonzalez are charged with seven counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. They each face up to 162 years in federal prison if convicted on all charges. Both pleaded not guilty to charges. Co-conspirators who authorities said helped run the alleged scam were not named.
[LADN] — Dennis Lynch