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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Real Estate Agent Sentenced To Prison For Fraudulent Short Sale Scheme

FRESNO, Calif. —Minerva Sanchez, 48, of Fremont, was sentenced today by Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii to 21 months in prison for conspiring to commit bank fraud, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.  Sanchez also was ordered to pay restitution to financial institutions in the amount of $421,372.

According to court documents, Sanchez was a licensed real estate agent who, beginning in or around March 2010, represented the seller of a home in Patterson, California.  Sanchez recommended that the seller undertake a short-sale of his home using Sanchez’s son as the straw buyer.  The seller, acting on Sanchez’s advice, submitted to Tri Counties Bank and Freddie Mac false and fraudulent short-sale applications, and caused these financial institutions to approve the charge-off of funds for the short-sale of the seller’s home.

With Sanchez’s knowledge, the seller provided the straw buyer with the full purchase price of the home ($355,000).  Sanchez provided the seller with a “hardship letter” for him to use in connection with the short-sale application, which misrepresented the seller’s inability to make his monthly mortgage payments.  In fact, Sanchez knew that the seller could make his monthly mortgage payments with proceeds from a pending sale of other real property he owned.

Sanchez, along with the seller and straw buyer, made other misrepresentations to the financial institutions in connection with the short-sale, including false statements that the transaction was “arm’s length,” and false statements concerning the parties’ hidden agreement that the seller would provide the straw buyer with the purchase money for the short-sale and ultimately regain ownership of his home following the short-sale.  In her plea agreement, Sanchez admitted that her criminal conduct caused the financial institutions to lose more than $316,000.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Office of Inspector General and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.  Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Baker prosecuted the case.

On June 10, 2013, the seller of the Patterson property, Agustin Simon, 52, of Gustine, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud in connection with this scheme.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on February 23, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill.

Press Release Number: 
Docket #: 1:13-cr-0438 AWI 1:13-cr-0203 LJO
Updated April 8, 2015