Member of Nevada City-Based Conspiracy Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Multimillion Dollar Bank and Title Fraud Scheme
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — George B. Larsen, 56, formerly of San Rafael, was sentenced to 10 years and one month in prison and ordered to pay $1,759,100 in restitution for his role in a fraudulent mortgage elimination scheme, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
On December 6, 2017, Larsen was convicted following trial on one count of conspiracy and four counts of bank fraud.
According to court documents, between April 22, 2010, and November 18, 2011, Larsen was a member of a conspiracy that ran a mortgage elimination program purporting to help distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure. The conspirators fraudulently altered the chain of title on residential properties, sold the properties, and received the sales proceeds.
As a requirement for participation in the “mortgage elimination program,” the conspirators enrolled homeowners as members in a Nevada City-based church named Shon-te-East-a, Walks With Spirit, or its successor entity Pillow Foundation. The conspirators indicated to the homeowners these entities would offer protection against the banks.
Larsen ran a branch of the mortgage elimination program, recruiting homeowners into the scheme, marshalling the necessary recorded documents, and guiding the sale of the homes. Once the homeowner enrolled with Shon-te-East-a or Pillow Foundation, Larsen would have a sham deed of trust created and recorded, giving the impression that the homeowner had refinanced the mortgage loan with a new lender. In reality, the new lender was a fake entity controlled by the conspirators, and the homeowner owed no money to the purported new lender.
The next step in the process was also a recorded document. The conspirators caused a fake deed of reconveyance to be recorded, giving the appearance that the true mortgage loan had been discharged and that the true lienholder no longer had a security interest in the home.
With title appearing to be clear, the conspirators caused the sale of the home, with the proceeds split between the co-conspirators and the homeowners.
In total, 37 properties were sold through the Shon-te-East-a conspiracy. The conspirators recorded fraudulent documents on an additional approximately 100 homes, but were unable to sell these before the scheme unraveled.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Audrey B. Hemesath and Todd A. Pickles are prosecuting the case.
One co-defendant, Larry Todt, formerly of Malibu, was convicted at trial along with Larsen. Three other co-defendants have previously entered guilty pleas: Remus A. Kirkpatrick, formerly of Oceanside, Michael Romano, of Benicia, and Laura Pezzi, of Roseville. Tisha Trites and Todd Smith, both of San Diego, pleaded guilty in related cases. All are awaiting sentencing.
Co-defendants John Michael DiChiara, of Penn Valley, and James Castle, of Santa Rosa, are awaiting trial. The charges against DiChiara and Castle are only allegations: both defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.