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L.A. County Woman in $6 Million Real Estate Scam Sentenced to Prison

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L.A. County Woman in $6 Million Real Estate Scam Sentenced to Prison

An 'open house' flag is displayed outside a single family home in Los Angeles on Sept. 22, 2022. (Allison Dinner/Getty Images)

City News Service

City News Service

10/16/2023

Updated: 10/16/2023

LOS ANGELES—A Southern California woman who worked with her brother to operate a $6 million real estate fraud scam in which homes were listed for sale without the owners’ consent and would-be buyers were bilked out of money was sentenced Oct. 16 to three years and 10 months in federal prison.
Bianca Gonzalez, 41, of Walnut, pleaded guilty last year to one federal count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Her brother, Adolfo Schoneke, 46, of Torrance, also admitted his role in the scheme and was sentenced in October 2022 to nine years behind bars.
Mr. Schoneke and Ms. Gonzalez, with the help of co-conspirators, operated real estate and escrow companies based in Cerritos, La Palma, and Long Beach under various names, including MCR and West Coast.
They admitted finding properties that they would list for sale—even though many were not on the market, and the pair did not have the authority to list them. Prosecutors said they would then market the properties as short sales, providing opportunities for purchases at below-market prices.
Using other people’s broker’s licenses, Mr. Schoneke and Ms. Gonzalez listed the properties on real estate websites such as the Multiple Listing Service. In some cases, the homes were marketed through open houses that co-conspirators were able to host after tricking homeowners into allowing their homes to be used, according to court papers.
As part of the scheme, the co-conspirators accepted multiple offers for each of the not-for-sale properties, leading each of the victims to believe that their offers were the only ones accepted.
Victims were then strung along, sometimes for years, with the co-conspirators telling them closings were being delayed due to the process of lenders approving the short sales.
Mr. Schoneke and Ms. Gonzalez directed office workers to open bank accounts in the workers’ names, and the accounts were used to deposit down payments and other funds from victims, who were convinced to transfer the full “purchase price” after receiving forged sale documents, prosecutors said.
Investigators estimate that several hundred victims collectively lost more than $6 million.
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