Former Bakersfield Real Estate Developers Sentenced to Prison for Mortgage Fraud Scheme
FRESNO, Calif. — Three Bakersfield residents were sentenced Tuesday by Senior United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme in Bakersfield, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
Eliseo Jara Jr., 36, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud, and was ordered to pay $4.3 million in restitution. Sergio Jara, 34, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud, and was ordered to pay $3,249,624 in restitution. Melissa Rochelle Jara, 34, was sentenced to time served and five years on supervised release for wire fraud, and was ordered to pay $271,171 in restitution. The Jaras were also ordered to forfeit their interests in six properties in Bakersfield, a 2007 Lexus, and approximately $110,419 seized from a bank account, and to pay personal forfeiture money judgments of $5,664,250 as to Eliseo Jara, $4,743,500 as to Sergio Jara, and $534,750 as to Melissa Jara. Prior to sentencing, Sergio and Melissa Jara also deposited approximately $148,000 with the Court toward their restitution obligations.
According to court documents, from 2007 to 2010, the Jaras conspired with other defendants to use straw buyers to purchase residential properties in Bakersfield developed by Jara Brothers Investments (JBI), owned by Eliseo Jara and Sergio Jara, and Pershing Partners LLC, owned by co-defendant Lucia Chavez. The conspirators paid straw buyers to purchase the properties from JBI and Pershing Partners, and funded the purchases using loans they obtained for the straw buyers from lenders based on false and fraudulent loan applications. Eliseo Jara and Sergio Jara owned and operated JBI, Paragon Home Mortgage, and Paragon Realty, and developed and sold residential real properties in the Bakersfield area using these companies. Melissa Jara was employed as a real estate broker at Paragon Realty and also owned and operated a limited liability company through which she sold a real property in furtherance of the scheme to defraud.
The loan applications in the names of straw buyers frequently contained false statements concerning the straw buyers’ employment status, income, assets, intent to occupy the properties as their personal residences, and source of down payments for the purchase of the properties. The conspirators concealed from the lenders that the property developers funded certain of the straw buyers’ down payments. The conspirators also submitted false supporting documentation to lenders such as false and altered bank account statements purporting to show that straw buyers had high bank account balances, false verifications of the straw buyers’ bank account funds, false verifications of rent purporting to be from straw buyers’ landlords, false pay stubs, and false verifications of employment.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kirk E. Sherriff and Henry Z. Carbajal III prosecuted the case.
Co-defendant Antonio Perez-Marcial was sentenced on May 12, 2014 to 46 months in prison, and co-defendant Arlene Jeanette Mojardin was sentenced on May 18, 2015 to 30 months in prison, for their roles in the conspiracy. Co-defendants Lucia Chavez, Joseph Chavez, and Candace Gonzales previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud, and their sentencing hearings are set for October 19, 2015, as to Lucia and Joseph Chavez, and October 26, 2015, as to Candace Gonzales. Co-defendant Ricardo Salinas previously pleaded guilty to bank fraud, and his sentencing is also set for October 26, 2015.