Sacto 9-1-1
November 8, 2013
Elk Grove man sentenced for debit card, student loan fraud

An Elk Grove man has been sentenced to 63 months in prison for schemes involving debit card and student loan fraud.

Mordechay Altit, 34, pleaded guilty in August to two counts of mail fraud and one count of money laundering, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. He was sentenced today in federal court Sacramento by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell.

According to court documents, Altit applied for debit cards issued by banks or other providers using his name or the names and Social Security numbers of other people. He then used merchant and terminal identification numbers issued to merchants and businesses nationwide to cause fraudulent refunds and credits to be placed on the debit cards he controlled. Before the businesses could rescind these transactions, Altit used the cards to spend and transfer the money. Authorities said Altit attempted to have at least $450,000 in fraudulent merchant returns credited to his debit cards.

November 7, 2013
Roseville financial adviser pleads guilty defrauding clients

A Roseville financial adviser has pleaded guilty to stealing clients' funds.

Michelle Lee Kern, 35, pleaded guilty to financial adviser fraud, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

According to court documents, between December 2009 and December 2012, Kern, a registered investment adviser, defrauded her clients by transferring money from client accounts into her own bank accounts or credit card accounts, or to accounts of her relatives.

November 7, 2013
Woman sentenced for role in Sacramento-area healthcare scam

A Glendale woman has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for her role in a Sacramento-area healthcare fraud.

Shushanik Martirosyan, 47, was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. for conspiring to commit healthcare fraud, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. She pleaded guilty on March 31, 2011, and testified in the May 2011 trial of three doctors involved in the scam. Judge England also ordered Martirosyan to pay $1,558,620 in restitution.

According to testimony presented at the trial of Martirosyan's codefendants, Doctors Ramanathan Prakash, Alexander Popov and Lana Le Chabrier, and Vardges Egiazarian owned and controlled three healthcare clinics in Sacramento, Richmond and Carmichael from February 2006 through August 2008. Egiazarian and others recruited doctors to submit applications to Medicare for billing numbers.

October 14, 2013
Fraud Awareness Fair set for Wednesday in West Sacramento

Individuals interested in learning how to avoid becoming victims of scams are invited to attend the sixth annual Yolo-Sacramento Fraud Awareness Fair on Wednesday in West Sacramento.

The event is offered free of charge from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the City Hall Galleria, 1110 West Capitol Ave., West Sacramento.

Representatives of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies will discuss how to recognize, report and avoid the latest financial scams. Topics will include how to safely hire a contractor, purchase an annuity and obtain a free credit report, according to a Yolo County District Attorney's Office news release.

October 9, 2013
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: What's status of men accused of defrauding United Auburn Indian Community?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: What's the status of the trio arrested and arraigned on charges related to the United Auburn Indian Community construction fraud?
Submitted by: CC, Rocklin

ANSWER: Bart Wayne Volen, Gregory Scott Baker and Darrell Patrick Hinz are awaiting trial in federal court in Sacramento, accused of stealing more than $18 million from the United Auburn Indian Community, which owns the Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln.

October 2, 2013
Placer sheriff's officials warn scam promising 'Publisher's Clearing House' prize

The Placer County Sheriff's Office is warning residents of scam that has been reported in the area.

Victims receive a call or text message from "Publisher's Clearing House" telling them that they have "just won", according to a Sheriff's Office news release. They are instructed to go to a Walmart or Kmart to purchase two $500 Greendot cards, a prepaid credit card. They are told to then call and provide the Greendot credit card numbers, to be used later as verification.

The caller states that this is how a courier will know he or she is talking to the right "winner".

September 12, 2013
Two arrested, accused of central roles in foreclosure rescue scheme

Two people were arrested today, accused of continuing a multistate scam that has defrauded homeowners in California and elsewhere while the alleged leader of the operation awaited trial.

Arrested were Tamara Teresa Tikal, 43 of Brentwood in Contra Costa County and Ray Jan Kornfeld, 57, of Las Vegas.

A federal grand jury in Sacramento on Wednesday returned a superseding indictment against Alan David Tikal, 45, adding charges for him and charging his wife Tamara Tikal and Kornfeld, who allegedly continued the scam while he was in custody awaiting trial, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. The indictment was unsealed after the arrests today.

September 4, 2013
Police say beware of the Roseville snake scam

A so-called "snake scam" has spread from the Bay area to Roseville, police said.

Burglars posing as animal control officers knocked on the doors of at least two homes in Roseville on Monday. The fake animal control officers asked to check the property for poisonous snakes.

In the first instance, about 3:45 p.m. Monday, a woman wearing brown clothes resembling an animal control uniform asked the Chancellor Avenue resident if she could check the yard for snakes. Her request was denied because the resident was aware of a Bay area snake scam and didn't let her in the house.

August 30, 2013
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: Has man who pleaded guilty in Ponzi scheme been sentenced?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: Defendant Garry Bradford pleaded guilty to a Ponzi scheme charge. Sentencing was scheduled to take place in April 2013. It was postponed. What is the status of this case?
Submitted by: George, Truckee

ANSWER: More than two years after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court in Sacramento to four counts of federal wire fraud, Garry Bradford has yet to be sentenced.

August 29, 2013
Davis police identify suspect in alleged charity scam

McCune, Anthony Maurice.jpgDavis police announced that they have obtained an arrest warrant for a suspect in a fraud scheme involving door-to-door solicitation for a charitable organization.

Police identified the suspect as Anthony Maurice McCune (pictured), 28, of West Sacramento. He is described as 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing about 150 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He typically is well-dressed, sometimes wearing a tie. He also has been known to speak with a Southern accent and to talk about his upbringing in Alabama, according to a Police Department news release.

McCune is accused of posing as a door-to-door charity worker seeking donations for an organization called Urban Development Solutions. Once he obtains personal checks, he allegedly alters the payee line or the amount, and proceeds to cash or the checks or deposit them into an account.

August 29, 2013
Former El Dorado Hills man sentenced in investment fraud case

A former El Dorado Hills resident was sentenced today in federal court in Sacramento to four years and nine months in prison for his role a multimillion investment fraud scheme.

Daniel Chartraw, 40, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. to pay $2.8 million in restitution.

Chartraw pleaded guilty to wire fraud in January.

August 23, 2013
Sacramento man pleads guilty to fraud schemes

A 34-year-old Sacramento man pleaded guilty today in a federal case involving debit card and student loan fraud.

Mordechay Altit -- also known as Michael Altit, Anthony Altit and Tony Altit -- pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud and one count of money laundering in connection with fraudulent use of debit cards and student loan fraud, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

According to court documents, Altit applied for debit cards issued by banks or other debit card providers in his own name, or using names and Social Security numbers of other people. He then used merchant and terminal identification numbers issued to merchants and businesses nationwide to cause fraudulent refunds and credits to be placed on the debit cards he controlled.

August 20, 2013
Placerville couple accused of filing false liens against IRS employees

A Placerville couple has been indicted in a tax fraud case that resulted in charges earlier this year against the owner and employees of a Placerville tax preparation business.

Charles and Victoria Tingler were arrested today on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud the United States and filing multimillion-dollar liens against government officials.

The superseding indictment, unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, adds the Tinglers and also adds charges for Teresa Marie Marty. Marty, who owned and operated a tax preparation business called Advanced Financial Services, is also charged with filing liens against the property of three IRS employees and filing liens of at least $84 million against the property of two U.S. Justice Department attorneys.

August 15, 2013
Elk Grove woman headed to prison for mortgage fraud scheme

Hoda Samuel, an Elk Grove real estate broker, was sentenced today to 10 years in prison for her role in a mortgage fraud scheme that caused more than $5.5 million in loss.

Samuel, 62, owned and operated the real estate agency Liberty Real Estate & Investment Co. and Liberty Mortgage Co., according to evidence presented during her trial in U.S. District Court in Sacramento. The government presented evidence of 30 fraudulent sales transactions between April 5, 2006, and Feb. 26, 2007. She was the real estate agent for the buyer in 29 of the home sales, and in at least 15, she also represented the seller.

Each transaction involved false statements on loan applications in order for unqualified buyers to qualify for the loans, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. These included false statements about income, employment and rental history.

August 14, 2013
Two accused of sweepstakes scams targeting seniors

Two Washington state residents were indicted today by a federal grand jury in Sacramento for running a sweepstakes scam targeting senior citizens in Woodland, Stockton, Bakersfield and other communities.

Joseph Nkunzi, 30, and Safia Ahmed, 37, were arrested in Washington on July 30. A magistrate judge detained them as flight risks and ordered them transported to Sacramento, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. They were charged today with eight counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.The indictment also alleges that the scheme involved telemarketing conduct that victimized individuals older than 55, which carries enhanced penalties, officials said.

According to court documents, on April 26, the Sacramento FBI received a referral from the Woodland Police Department regarding a 78-year-old victim of a telemarketing lottery scam. She had been called by a company, "North American Prize Pool," and told that she had won $8.8 million, but to receive the prize, she had to send $182,000 to various accounts. An investigation into those accounts led to Nkunzi,Ahmed and others involved in the scheme.

August 9, 2013
South Lake Tahoe police warn of vacation rental scam

South Lake Tahoe police are advising vacation home owners, rental companies and visitors to the area to beware of an Internet scam conducted through vacation rental websites.

At least three families have been victims of the scam, and police suspect there may be additional victims who have not reported the crime.

The scam, according to a Police Department news release, involves false postings on legitimate vacation rental websites advertising rental properties available in South Lake Tahoe. The fraudulent postings appear alongside legitimate postings and include photographs of residences in the area, which make the postings appear authentic.

August 9, 2013
Davis police issue warning on door-to-door solicitations

The Davis Police Department is warning of a possible scam involving a door-to-door solicitor.

In June and July, police received complaints from two residents who appear to have been victims of fraud, according to a Police Department news release. Both victims reported that a man who appeared to be between 20 and 25 years old came to their door as a solicitor wearing an ID badge around his neck. The man was described as black, 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a slim build and nicely dressed.

In each case, police said, the man stated that he was soliciting for Urban Development Solutions, a charitable organization that assists underprivileged youth.

August 1, 2013
Sacramento brothers sentenced for bank fraud, ID theft

Two Sacramento brothers were sentenced today to four years in prison for stealing the identity of U.S. Postal Service and department store customers to commit bank fraud.

Glen Patrick Shoults, 27, and Jackie Lester Shoults III, 31, were assisted by co-defendant Kathleen S. Wade, who worked at a department store between February and mid-December 2012, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. The Shoults brothers, at times using Wade's sales clerk position, made fraudulent transactions on bank and credit card accounts of numerous victims.

The brothers obtained stolen mail largely from Sacramento and Elk Grove postal customers to further their scheme, which involved using victims' identities and credit card accounts to purchase and later return high-value items for cash, credit and exchange.

July 26, 2013
Hit-and-run driver who fled country headed to prison

A man who abandoned his vehicle following a hit-and-run crash, then reported the car stolen, has been sentenced to 13 years and eight months in prison.

Joseph Holyfield pleaded guilty to insurance fraud, hit and run with injury, driving under the influence causing injury and lying to a law enforcement officer, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release. He also admitted to a previous "strike" conviction for attempted robbery.

On June 24, 2010, Holyfield was returning from boating with family and friends at Rollins Lake, and after consuming approximately 18 beers, officials said. Once home, he took his wife's BMW to meet his drug connection.

July 24, 2013
Windshield repair technician sentenced for insurance fraud

A 22-year-old man was sentenced today to two years in state prison after pleading no contest last month to felony insurance fraud in his role as a windshield repair technician.

An investigation by the California Department of Insurance's Urban Auto Task Force determined that Jacob Dufur and an accomplice were employed by a franchise that specialized in repairing small windshield cracks. Between May 7, 2011, and March 19, 2012, Dufur and an accomplice submitted 121 fraudulent work orders to the parent company, Chipio Inc., for payment on windshield repairs that neither of them had made, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release.

After paying Dufur and his accomplice for the alleged cost of the windshield repairs, the parent company submitted the work orders to the customer's automobile insurance company for payment. The franchise, the parent company and the insurance companies ended up paying $7,373 on the fraudulent work orders.

Authorities said an arrest warrant for insurance fraud has been issued for Dufur's accomplice.

July 22, 2013
Man, dog stabbed at Citrus Heights apartment complex

Citrus Heights police are searching for a suspect in the stabbing of a man and his dog at an apartment complex this morning.

Officers responded about 9:53 a.m. to the 7400 block of Auburn Oaks Court and arrived to find a man who had suffered stab wounds. The man was transported to a local hospital with injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening, according to a Police Department news release.

Police said the man's dog also was stabbed, but the animal's injuries also were not believed to be life-threatening. An animal control officer responded to the scene.

July 19, 2013
Sacramento police warn of vehicle sales scams

Sacramento police are reminding people to be cautious in vehicle sales or purchases involving private parties, noting that detectives have seen recent instances in which stolen vehicles were sold to unsuspecting buyers responding to online advertisements.

Detectives offer several tips to avoid becoming a victim of this scam:

• Print out the ad so you have evidence of the sale.

July 17, 2013
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: What happened to state corrections employee accused of insurance fraud?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: What happened to a prison guard who faked disability injury at a swingers club?
Submitted by: Gary Hall, Modesto

ANSWER: John Smiley and his wife, Cynthia Ann Biasi-Smiley, were convicted in March 2012 of attempted perjury in a workers' comp case in which he said that injuries he suffered in a shooting outside a San Francisco sex club were job-related.

July 17, 2013
Gold River businessman convicted of fraud, money laundering

A Gold River businessman and a Southern California attorney have been convicted for their roles in a multimillion-dollar bankruptcy fraud and money laundering scheme.

Steven Zinnel, 49, of Gold River was convicted of 15 counts of bankruptcy fraud and money laundering, and attorney Derian Eidson, 49, of Yorba Linda was convicted of one count of conspiring and one count of attempting to commit money laundering, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. A federal jury in Sacramento returned the verdicts after an 11-day trial before U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley.

Nunley ordered Zinnel immediately remanded to custody. Zinnel and Eidson are to be sentenced Oct. 3.

July 8, 2013
Woman pleads guilty to role in foreclosure rescue scheme

A Los Angeles woman pleaded guilty today in federal court in Sacramento to bankruptcy fraud in connection with a foreclosure rescue scheme that she ran.

Jewel Hinkles, also known as Cydney Sanchez, 63, was the founder and general manager of Horizon Property Holdings LLC in Beverly Hills. She was indicted by a federal grand jury on Dec. 1, 2011, along with Jesse Wheeler, 36, of Roseville, Cynthia Corn, 60, of Oakland and Brent Medearis, 46, of Modesto.

According to court documents, Hinkles was the founder and general manager of Horizon Property Holdings LLC in Beverly Hills. From 2008 through 2010, she offered a service called the "Save My Home" or "Homesaver" that promised to rescue financially distressed homeowners from foreclosure and reduce the principal on homeowner' mortgages. Horizon offered its program directly to clients and also through several layers of "affiliates", who promoted and sold the program to clients, mostly in Northern California.

July 1, 2013
Man draws jail time for insurance fraud scheme

A man who filed a fraudulent stolen vehicle claim when he fell behind on his auto loan payments was sentenced today in Sacramento Superior Court to 270 days in county jail.

James Adkins also was placed on five years formal probation for committing insurance fraud and was ordered to pay $22,631.86 in restitution to Progressive Insurance and SAFE Credit Union, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release.

In March 2010, Adkins was two months behind on vehicle loan payments to his credit union. He asked a friend, co-defendant Justin Highsmith, to get rid of his 2002 Escalade so he could file a fraudulent stolen vehicle claim with his auto insurance company, officials said. Highsmith agreed and gave the vehicle to an individual who then sold the Escalade.

June 28, 2013
Phone scammers masquerade as FBI, El Dorado County sheriff

Phone scammers intent on bilking El Dorado County residents of their money are falsely identifying themselves as the FBI or the sheriff.

Telephone scams are not new. The El Dorado County Sheriff's Department investigates hundreds of phone and e-mail scams each year.

Recently, however, the department noticed a new wrinkle in scamming: A caller said he was an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

June 26, 2013
Windshield repairman pleads guilty to insurance fraud

A man who was employed as a windshield repair technician has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of insurance fraud.

An investigation by the California Department of Insurance's Urban Auto Task Force determined that Jacob Dufur, 22, and an accomplice were employed as windshield repair technicians for a franchise that specialized in repairing small windshield cracks. Between May 7, 2011, and March 19, 2012, Dufur and an accomplice submitted 121 fraudulent work orders to the parent company, Chipio Inc., for payment of windshield repairs that neither of them had performed, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release.

After paying Dufur and his accomplice for the alleged cost of the windshield repairs, the parent company submitted the work orders to the customer's automobile insurance company for payment. The franchise, the parent company and the insurance companies ended up paying $7,373 on the fraudulent work orders, officials said.

June 25, 2013
El Dorado County women indicted in tax refund scheme

Three El Dorado County women have been indicted in a nationwide a $60 million fraudulent tax refund scheme.

In an indictment unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, Teresa Marie Marty of Pollock Pines, Rebecca Bandera-Marty of Shingle Springs and Pamela Harris of Placerville were charged with conspiring to defraud the United States, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. In addition to the conspiracy count, Marty is charged with 33 counts and Bandera-Marty with 16 counts of false claims against the United States.

According to the indictment, in 2008 and 2009, the three women conspired to defraud the United States by filing at least 250 false individual federal income tax returns, claiming more than $60 million in false federal income tax refunds for clients in 26 states. In response to the false returns, the IRS erroneously issued more than 40 tax refunds, totaling more than $8 million, including refund for $277,832 for Marty's own tax return.

June 24, 2013
Roseville, Modesto men plead guilty to foreclosure rescue scheme

Two men have pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud in connection with a foreclosure rescue scheme.

Jesse Wheeler, 36, of Roseville and Brent Medearis, 46, of Modesto entered guilty pleas today in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

On Dec. 1, 2011, a federal grand jury indicted Wheeler and Medearis along with Jewel L. Hinkles, also known as Cydney Sanchez, 63, of Los Angeles, and Cynthia Corn, 60, of Oakland, for a scheme allegedly run by Hinkles. According to court documents, Wheeler operated JW Financial Solutions in Roseville, and Medearis worked out of a Modesto office, both as affiliates of programs that Hinkles created.

June 14, 2013
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: What happened to longtime Sacramento businessman accused of investment scam?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: What happened to Jonathon Appleton, who operated real estate and insurance businesses and was accused of investment scams about 10 years ago?
Submitted by: Curious, Sacramento

ANSWER: Alden Jonathon Apple of Fair Oaks was sentenced in in 2003 to seven years in state prison for bilking members of his church out of more than $680,000 in an investment scam.

May 23, 2013
Man accused of defrauding Granite Bay woman faces new charges

A man previously accused of defrauding a Granite Bay woman of more than $7 million has been indicted in connection with a second scheme, this one involving a Pennsylvania financial manager.

A federal grand jury in Sacramento today returned a 20-count superseding indictment charging Troy Stratos, 47, formerly of Los Angeles, with three counts of mail fraud, 12 counts of wire fraud, four counts of money laundering and one count of obstruction of justice, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

In December 2011, Stratos was indicted for mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice in relation to a scheme to defraud a Granite Bay woman of more than $7 million. The superseding indictment includes all the charges in the original indictment and adds four counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering relating to a different scheme to defraud a financial manager of $11.25 million in client funds, officials said.

May 13, 2013
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: Has former El Dorado Hills resident been sentenced in investment fraud scheme?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: Was Daniel Chartraw sentenced May 2, and if so what was the sentence?
Submitted by: Chris, Los Angeles

ANSWER: According to U.S. District Court online records, Daniel Chartraw's sentencing has been continued to July 18.

May 10, 2013
Las Vegas man sentenced for defrauding South Lake Tahoe investor of $2.9 million

A Las Vegas man is headed to prison after being sentenced in federal court in Sacramento for defrauding a South Lake Tahoe investor of $2.9 million.

U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. today sentenced Jed Baron, 55, to five years and three months in prison for wire fraud related to the investment scheme, according to a Department of Justice news release.

According to court documents, Baron made a series of false business proposals to a victim in the Lake Tahoe area, including investment in a venture to sell Irish seafood to restaurants in Las Vegas. Instead of using the victim's money for the intended purpose, Baron diverted the funds for personal use and to pay other investors from previous deals.

May 9, 2013
Placer sheriff warns of scammers posing as law enforcement officers

The Placer County Sheriff's Department is alerting residents to a telephone scam involving callers who identify themselves as law enforcement officials.

Some residents have reported receiving phone calls from an individual claiming to be a Placer County sheriff's official. They were told they were owed money and asked to wire money to release the funds, according to a Sheriff's Department news release. The caller then gave a phone number to call to verify that the caller was a member of law enforcement. Authorities stress that any number given should always be verified through other sources, rather than taking the caller's word for it.

Detectives urge people to never give money or information over the phone to anyone they don't know, adding that a law enforcement officer would never call and ask someone to wire money.

Anyone who questions the legitimacy of someone who claims to be a deputy or a detective is advised to call the Sheriff's Department's non-emergency line , (530) 886-5375, to verify that the individual works for the Placer County Sheriff's Department.

May 7, 2013
Orangevale man indicted in mortgage fraud scheme

An Orangevale man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for his alleged role in a mortgage fraud scheme.

The five-count indictment unsealed Monday charges Valeri Kalyuzhnyy, 41, with false statements on a loan and credit application and money laundering, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

The indictment alleges that Kalyuzhnyy caused the preparation and submission of loan applications to federally insured lenders that falsely stated various home buyers' income, employment, assets and intent to occupy the homes as their primary residences. Kalyuzhnyy allegedly was responsible for origination of nearly $4 million in residential mortgage loans.

May 3, 2013
Folsom developer with history of fraud draws 10-year sentence

A Folsom developer who was soliciting investors for a new scheme while still on supervised release for a previous criminal conviction is headed to prison for investment fraud.

David Romo, 42, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. to 10 years and one month in prison for mail fraud related to a real estate investment scheme that defrauded investors of more than $6.9 million, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

According to court documents, Romo ran a sophisticated scheme involving numerous investments that obtained millions of dollars through a series of clever misrepresentations to homeowners and manipulations of the real estate purchase process. Using his companies Sycamore Ventures LLC, Smarie Investments LLC and Groupo Immobiliare LLC, Romo solicited individuals to fund various real estate developments. But instead of using the investor money for the intended purpose, Romo diverted funds to his personal use and to pay unrelated, prior business expenses.

May 2, 2013
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: What's latest in case of Elk Grove man accused in Ponzi scheme?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you had any information about the Ponzi scheme case against Chris Jackson?
Submitted by: Conrad, Sacramento

ANSWER:The case of Christopher Jackson, one of five Sacramento-area residents charged in September 2011 in a $26 million real estate fraud scheme, remains in federal court in Sacramento.

April 17, 2013
Owners of Poor Red's Bar-B-Q arrested on suspicion of tax evasion, insurance fraud

El Dorado County authorities have arrested the owners of Poor Red's Bar-B-Q - a local institution in Diamond Springs - on suspicion of tax evasion and insurance fraud.

Michael and Brenda Adams are accused of evading almost $350,000 in taxes over the last six years, according to a news release from the El Dorado District Attorney's office.

Prosecutors have filed a complaint against the Adamses in El Dorado Superior Court alleging more than 30 counts of tax evasion and insurance fraud, the release states.

Search warrants were executed today at the couple's residence and business by El Dorado sheriff's deputies, District Attorney's investigators and agents from the Franchise Tax Board, Employment Development Department and the Board of Equalization.

The couple are being held in lieu of $350,000 bail in the El Dorado county jail in Placerville.

Poor Red's opened in 1948 and is best known for its signature drink, the Golden Cadillac, a frothy blend of Galliano, half-and-half, white cream de cacao and ice.

April 16, 2013
Sacramento-area brothers plead guilty in mortgage fraud case

Two Sacramento-area brothers pleaded guilty in today to wire fraud related to a mortgage fraud scheme.

The pleas were entered in U.S. District Court in Sacramento by Andrey Andreyev, 37, of Sacramento and Vitaliy Andreyev, 30, of Antelope, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

According to court documents, the Andreyev brothers were recruited by Vera Kuzmenko, owner of VK Tax Services, a tax preparation business, to purchase properties they could not afford. Andrey Andreyev purchased a property for $850,000 and Vitaliy Andreyev bought a property for $1.2 million.

April 12, 2013
Former NFL player, claims adjuster accused of scheme to defraud Sacramento firm

A former National Football League football player and a former West Sacramento claims adjuster are accused of participating in a $1.5 million scheme to defraud a Sacramento business that managed workers' compensation claims.

A federal grand jury in Sacramento has indicted Marcus Buckley, 42, of Weatherford,Texas, and Kimberly Jones, a former West Sacramento resident now living in Wichita, Kan., in the alleged scheme, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. Both were charged with five counts of wire fraud, and Buckley was charged with six counts of money laundering.

According to the indictment, Buckley was a professional football player with the National Football League between 1993 and 2000, playing seven seasons with the New York Giants. During that period, the Giants had workers' compensation coverage through Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association Insurance Group.

April 5, 2013
Sac State police warn of scam involving fake checks

The Sacramento State Police Department warns the public to beware of an ongoing fraud involving fictitious checks that use identifying information of the University Foundation of Sacramento State.

The perpetrators of the scam have sent fictitious checks with a letter giving the false promise that the recipient has won an international lottery. They seek to persuade the recipient to deposit the fake check and then send payment to the "Intercontinental Lottery Management INC." to pay the taxes on the fake lottery winnings, according to a Police Department news release.

Days later, the victims learn from their bank that the check was fake and they are out the money they sent to the purported lottery firm.

April 4, 2013
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: What is status of suspect in federal real estate fraud case?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: What is the status of Michael Bolden, who was charged in a real estate fraud case?
Submitted by: Rocketman916, Sacramento

ANSWER: The trial for Michael Bolden and four other people indicted by a federal grand jury is set for May 14, according to federal court online records.

April 3, 2013
Third defendant sentenced in $1.3 million tax fraud scheme

A Sacramento woman has been sentenced to three years and one month in prison for her role in a $1.3 million tax fraud scheme.

Nadiyah Muhammad Woods, 34, is the last of three defendants to be sentenced in the case, which involved a scheme to obtain tax refunds by filing false tax returns, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. She was sentenced in Sacramento by U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller and will be subject to three years of supervised release following her time in prison. Woods also was ordered to pay $902,617 in restitution.

According to court documents, Woods and two other defendants -- Nakia Renee Vaughn, 27, and Tomisha Lee McKinnie, 25, both of Sacramento -- filed false tax returns using TurboTax, an online tax preparation software. To operate the scheme, the defendants obtained Green Dot and other debit cards offered through the TurboTax software that were loaded with the tax refunds of taxpayer victims whose identities they used. They had the tax refunds mailed to various addresses under their control in Sacramento County.

March 27, 2013
Rocklin police warn of telephone scam targeting seniors

Rocklin police are alerting residents to a telephone scam targeting senior citizens in the community.

It typically begins with a telephone call made by someone pretending to be the senior citizen's grandson or granddaughter. The caller says he or she has encountered some sort of trouble while traveling abroad and asks the grandparent to wire money. The trouble typically involves having a wallet stolen, being arrested, being seriously ill or being involved in a traffic accident.

Police said the caller usually sounds believable and, in many cases, uses the names of all the parties involved.

In at least one case, police said, a victim wired money. In another case, an alert bank teller prevented the customer from losing $3,000 when he told the teller why he was withdrawing the money and the teller realized it was a scam. The customer made a few calls, and verified that his grandson was not traveling and had not been arrested.

March 25, 2013
Indictment alleges mortgage fraud scheme in Rocklin, Roseville

An Irvine man has been arrested in a mortgage fraud case involving properties in Rocklin and Roseville.

A federal grand jury in Sacramento returned a three-count indictment Thursday charging Alexander A. Romaniolis, 48, with mail fraud. The indictment was unsealed after his arrest today in Huntington Beach, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

The indictment alleges that Romaniolis recruited five straw buyers to purchase eight residential properties in Rocklin, Roseville and San Clemente. He allegedly assisted the straw buyers in providing false information to lenders about their employment, income, assets and intent to occupy properties as primary residences. In most cases, authorities said, the straw buyers claimed to be executives of companies created and controlled by Romaniolis.

March 19, 2013
Seniors advised to beware of possible medical card scam

A Citrus Heights resident and retired Prudential insurance agent is eager to alert fellow senior citizens to a likely medical card scam.

Kenneth Kenoyer said he has received five phone calls in the last two days from individuals telling him he is eligible for a medical card that could save him money on prescription and medical care costs. The various callers -- one was a woman and two were men -- knew his address but said they needed his bank account and routing numbers for identification purposes.

Kenoyer said he declined all offers, advising the callers that he had Medicare and other health-care coverage and couldn't see how such a medical card would benefit him. When he told the last caller that he was going to contact a newspaper about the offers, Kenoyer said, the caller hung up.

March 15, 2013
Yolo DA warns of door-to-door sales scams targeting seniors

The Yolo County District Attorney's Office is warning residents to beware of door-to-door salespeople using high-pressure tactics.

Authorities said they have received several reports recently of salespeople who may be targeting senior communities in the area. They are ignoring clearly posted "no soliciting" signs and a using high-pressure tactics to make sales, according to a District Attorney's Office news release.

In a recent instance at a mobile home park, an 86-year-old woman who is hard of hearing opened her door to an official-looking young man in a yellow uniform who persuaded her to switch from the natural gas service provider she has had for more than 20 years to one based in Texas. Fortunately, authorities said, she checked with her son and was able to cancel the contract within the three-day time period allowed by law.

March 14, 2013
Elk Grove, Sacramento properties involved in alleged mortgage fraud scheme

A federal grand jury in Sacramento today returned a 12-count indictment in a mortgage fraud scheme that reportedly used straw buyers to purchase properties in communities including Elk Grove and Sacramento.

The indictment charges Surjit Singh, 66, of the East Bay community of Dublin, his son, Rajeshwar Singh, 38, of Pleasanton and Anita Sharma, 51, of Gilroy, with mail fraud, bank fraud, and false statements on a loan and credit application, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

The indictment alleges that Surjit Singh recruited individuals with good credit to act as straw buyers for residential properties owned by his family members and associates. Rajeshwar Singh, a licensed real estate agent, allegedly assisted in the scheme by submitting loan applications for the straw buyers, who included Sharma.

March 7, 2013
Immigration consultant pleads guilty in marriage fraud scheme

An immigration consultant characterized by authorities as the mastermind of a marriage fraud scheme pleaded guilty today in federal court in Sacramento.

Sergey Potepalov, 57, of Citrus Heights admitted to his role in a scheme that involved sham marriages, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. He is to be sentenced Aug. 15 by U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr.

Potepalov, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Russian descent, was the leader of a scheme with 13 other defendants who were charged in July 2011 with conspiring to commit marriage fraud, to defraud the United States, to make false statements and to induce foreign nationals to enter and remain in the United States, according to court records.

March 5, 2013
Crown Vic police impersonators fool Sacramento motorist

Sacramento police report a motorist was pulled over by apparent jokesters pretending to be officers on patrol in the Robla area.

Shortly before 10 p.m. Monday, a motorist in the 4300 block of Pell Drive pulled to the side of the road. The motorist pulled over because behind him was a black and white Ford Crown Victoria with small red and blue lights shining.

The law enforcement version of the Crown Victoria has long been preferred by police departments before its discontinuance by Ford.

When the motorist was ordered out his vehicle, he realized the two people in the black and white car were not officers because they started laughing. He left the area and phoned the real police.

Officers later found a vehicle matching the description of the Crown Victoria used in the incident. However, the motorist duped by the pranksters could not be contacted to assist in identification of the Crown Vic driver, police said.

An investigation continues.

February 7, 2013
Figure in investment scam sentenced to 8 years in prison

Donald Dunakin mug (1).jpgBy Dan Hill
dhill@sacbee.com

The man who leased Purgatory Restaurant and Nightclub received an eight-year prison sentence after pleading guilty Wednesday to three counts of investor fraud in Sacramento Superior Court.

Donald Dunakin, 42, was booked Monday on 43 counts that included grand theft and false statements, according to court documents.

Dunakin's arrest warrant indicated he accepted investments to his companies - Dunakin Investments, Preferred Diversified Holdings and Platinum Performance Holdings - without a license. Dunakin lost his license in 2009 after allegations that he made poor recommendations, the Department of Justice said.

An investigation of Dunakin's accounts found he solicited more than $1.5 million from investors, many of whom were over the age of 65, according to Dunakin's arrest warrant. Investigators identified 28 people who invested with Dunakin, the document says.

"Everybody was just blind-sided," said Kathy Dotson, a Carmichael resident on Thursday. She said she was scammed by one of Dunakin's investment companies.

"It would have been better if we had a gun in our face and robbed us because that way you know your attacker," Dotson said.

Dotson, 57, said her money was invested in August 2011. She said her financial adviser alerted her to the scam about four months ago, a day before she received a phone call from DOJ investigators.

"We invested into what we thought was securities, assisted living and things like that," she said. "We really didn't know our money was going to a bar and a restaurant and a coffee shop."

January 24, 2013
Former El Dorado Hills man pleads guilty in investment fraud scheme

A former El Dorado County man has pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with a multimillion-dollar investment fraud scheme.

Daniel Chartraw, 39, entered the plea today in U.S. District Court in Sacramento. He is to be sentenced May 2 by U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr.

Between Jan. 1, 2007, and Nov. 30, 2011, according to court documents, Chartraw defrauded numerous investors by falsely representing investments in mines, mining and refinery equipment, oil commodities, precious metals concentrate, and multimillion-dollar certificates of deposit.

January 16, 2013
SMUD business customers continuing to be scam targets

SMUD is warning a phone scam continues to be perpetrated on its business customers.

Around the holiday season, some customers reported getting phone calls by someone pretending to represent the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. The caller threatened to shut off a home's or business's electric power unless the customer pays a past-due bill immediately at a payment facility.

The scam attempts were reported by several business customers, the utility said. SMUD said this week that those fraudulent calls continue to be made.

January 13, 2013
South Lake Tahoe man avoids being victim in widespread fraud

South Lake Tahoe Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration are warning the public that criminals posing as DEA agents are trying to extort money from people who have purchased prescription drugs via the internet.

Police officials reported late Saturday that a resident of South Lake Tahoe resident called police after a man called him professing to be a DEA agent and warning that the resident would be arrested on criminal charges for buying an illegal prescription via the intent unless he wired $1,000 to the caller.

The resident did not pay and reported the call to police.

January 12, 2013
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: Has 'investment club' president been sentenced in Ponzi scheme?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you have more information on Garry Bradford. He was arrested on approximately April 19, 2011.
Submitted by: Bill, Sacramento

ANSWER:Garry Bradford pleaded guilty in August 2011 to four counts of federal wire fraud in connection with a real estate Ponzi scheme.

January 10, 2013
CHP warns motorists of imposter offering roadside service

The California Highway Patrol is alerting motorists to the services the state-funded Freeway Service Patrol program after an individual posing as a program employee in San Joaquin County solicited money from stranded motorists, but left them abandoned on the roadside.

The Freeway Service Patrol is a free service, with all operating costs covered by state and local public funding allocations.

CHP spokesman Officer Adrian Quintero said the patrol, which provides towing services, is designed to reduce traffic congestion on freeways by quickly removing disabled vehicles from the roadway. Patrol tow trucks are clearly marked with signage, and drivers wear Freeway Safety Patrol uniforms and patches.

December 20, 2012
Detectives shut down alleged Lodi gambling operation

Detectives arrested 10 people on various charges at a business in Lodi where police suspect illegal gambling was taking place.

A warrant was served at the Web Stop, 920 South Cherokee Lane in Lodi, on Tuesday. Police allege that gambling was conducted on 42 computers within the business.

Patrons would wager on electronic "slot machine style" computer programs, according to police. The computers and several printers were seized in the raid on Web Stop.

December 18, 2012
Yolo DA warns of scammers offering computer tech support

The Yolo County District Attorney's Office is warning computer users of phone calls from scam artists pretending to represent well-known companies like Microsoft, Dell or Norton.

In the past week, several Yolo County residents have reported receiving calls from people claiming to be with "tech support" and saying they need access to the individual's personal computer to remove a virus or maintain the warranty.

Last week, a scammer contacted a retired Yolo County employee telling her that her computer warranty was about to expire. The caller pressured her for more than 30 minutes to accept the service, according to a District Attorney's Office news release.

December 17, 2012
El Dorado County Sheriff to clamp down on elder abuse

The El Dorado County Sheriff's office has added an investigator to focus on elder abuse.

Reports of elder abuse have increased nine percent since 2011 in the county. The county's population of residents over the age of 65 is 31.6 percent greater than the state's average.

Physical abuse takes in not only assaults, but inappropriate use of drugs, restraints and confinement. Financial exploitation involves the taking of an older person's money, either by a caregiver or a scam artist.

November 2, 2012
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: Has man indicted in real estate fraud case gone to trial?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: Has Christopher Jackson gone to trial? If not, what is causing the delay?
Submitted by: William423, Sacramento

ANSWER: Christopher Jackson was one of five Sacramentans charged in September 2011 in a $26 million real estate fraud scheme.

October 29, 2012
Sacramento men arrested for forgery of green cards

Two Sacramento residents have been arrested on suspicion of selling counterfeit IDs.

Laurel Velasquez, 30, and Pedro Izehuatl, 45, were arrested after a four-month investigation by the California Department of Justice. They are suspected of selling counterfeit driver's licenses, green cards and a social security card.

During the investigation, special agents conducted an undercover operation during which they purchased dozens of counterfeit federal green cards. Driver's licenses and a social security card were bought from Velasquez for $100 each.

Equipment used to make the counterfeit documents was seized, according to a DOJ press release.

September 25, 2012
Incidents trigger Galt police to issue ID theft warning

By Ed Fletcher
efletcher@sacbee.com

Two events in Galt prompted police to offer a warning on identity theft.

Galt police officials say a suspected identity thief was arrested Monday after a high-speed chase.

The chase concluded around 2 a.m. Monday when a man, later identified as Joseph Polendey Langman, 35, fled in a stolen vehicle after leading police to Acampo, south of Galt, according to a Police Department news release.

September 11, 2012
DA's office warns of scam promising prize money for upfront fee

Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully is advising residents to beware of a scam that promises prize money for a significant upfront fee.

Leyne Milstein, the city of Sacramento's finance director, said she alerted the DA's office, along with the FBI and other local law enforcement agencies this week after her father nearly became a scam victim.

Milstein said her father received a call informing him that he had won a lottery. All he needed to do to claim the prize was purchase two $500 Green Dot Moneypak cards and meet lottery representatives at a bank. Once he provided the representatives with the cards, they would deposit a multimillion-dollar check in his account.

August 17, 2012
3 men indicted in phony $18 million casino billing scheme

By Denny Walsh

dwalsh@sacbee.com

A grand jury indictment unsealed Friday in Sacramento federal court charges three men with conspiring to rip off more than $18 million from the United Auburn Indian Community, which owns the lucrative Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln.

Bart Wayne Volen, Greg Scott Baker, and Darrell Patrick Hinz are accused of using their strategic positions to unlawfully inflate charges paid by the tribe in 2006 and 2007 for work on a four-building construction project on property owned by the tribe on Indian Hills Road in Auburn.

All three are charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.

The grand jury returned the indictment Aug. 9, but it was sealed at the request of the government.

Volen, 53, of San Diego and Haiku, Hawaii, was arrested Friday at the San Francisco International Airport by Internal Revenue Service agents.

Shortly thereafter, the indictment was unsealed.

No-bail arrest warrants were issued for all three defendants the day the indictment was returned. It was not clear late Friday whether Baker, 45, of Newcastle, and Hinz, 47, of Cameron Park, have been arrested.

August 9, 2012
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: What happened to couple accused in 'sweetheart scam'?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: What ever happened to the couple Nicky and Ruby Marks from Sacramento who were suspected of scamming an elderly man in what police dubbed a "sweetheart scam"?
Submitted by: Mike, Sacramento

ANSWER: Ruby Miller, aka Ruby Marks, and her husband, bounty hunter Nicky Marks, were arrested in Reno in February 2008 in a case that Sacramento police described as the third in a series "sweetheart scams" perpetrated by a group that included Nicky Marks' sister and a niece.

According to a story in The Bee, the women lied to befriend and defraud elderly men. Three men suffered losses of $500,000 as a result of the scam.

According to Sacramento Superior Court online records, Miller and Marks each pleaded no contest to embezzlement by a caretaker, perjury and grand theft. Miller was sentenced to seven years in state prison and Marks to 5 years and 4 months in prison. Neither appears in an online roster of current state prison inmates.

Nicky Marks' sister, Linda Navarro, and Navarro's niece Monique Marks each pleaded no contest to embezzlement by a caretaker. Navarro was sentenced to two years in state prison and Monique Marks to five years probation.

Have a Sacto911 question? Submit it here.

July 20, 2012
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: What's latest on man at center of real estate fraud case?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: There was a person charged last year for running a Ponzi scheme and a real estate scam. His name is Michael Bolden. Can you give us an update on that case?
Submitted by: Tony, Rancho Cordova

ANSWER: The case involving Michael Bolden and others indicted by a federal grand jury last September has yet to go to trial and federal court online records do not list a trial date.

July 19, 2012
Ask Sacto 911 crime Q&A: What was trial outcome for Fair Oaks investment adviser?

Bee reporters answer questions about area crime news, trends and other issues.

QUESTION: No too long ago, Thomas B. Hammond, a former president of the Fair Oaks Chamber of Commerce as well as being a financial a certified financial planner, was arrested for operating a Ponzi scheme. What was the outcome of the trial?
Submitted by: Christianright, Sacramento

ANSWER: Thomas Brown Hammond, a Fair Oaks investment adviser, was sentenced in June to four years and nine months in federal prison in connection with a Ponzi scheme that involved stealing money from clients' retirement accounts.

July 12, 2012
Physician sentenced in Medicare scam involving Sacramento, Carmichael clinics

A Santa Barbara physician has been sentenced in federal court in Sacramento to six-and-a-half years in prison for her role in a Medicare fraud scam that involved Sacramento and Carmichael health-care clinics.

Lana Le Chabrier, 64, was found guilty by a jury July 8, 2011. She was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr.

Judge England found that La Chabrier abused her position of trust as a physician and was responsible for close to a million dollars in fraudulent billings submitted to Medicare and more than $400,000 in payments made on false claims.

June 29, 2012
Butte County resident sentenced in Sacramento court in marijuana-growing conspiracy

By Denny Walsh

dwalsh@sacbee.com

Johnny E. "Jay" Grivette Jr., once a top lieutenant of Lawrence Leland "Lee" Loomis, alleged by the government to be a major fraudster who has yet to be charged, was sentenced Friday in Sacramento federal court to 4 1/2 months in prison and 4 1/2 months of home confinement on his guilty plea to a marijuana-growing conspiracy.

Grivette, 37, a Butte County resident, will remain free for at least the next three months while he continues his assistance in the government's investigation of Loomis, formerly of Granite Bay.

June 27, 2012
Yolo County DA reports surge in scams targeting seniors

The Yolo County District Attorney's Office is alerting residents to a surge in scams targeting older adults in the county.

Reports from victims in West Sacramento, Davis and Woodland indicate that phony sweepstakes and the "Grandma, It's Me" telephone scams are continuing to be used to trick people into wiring money outside the country, according to a District Attorney's Office news release.

In one instance, more than $4,000 was lost in a phony sweepstakes scam after a con artist pretending to be from the Federal Trade Commission persuaded a local senior citizen to wire money to Costa Rica, officials said. In another recent case, an elderly woman was tricked into sending all the money she had in her savings account to someone claiming to be her grandson who was out of the country and in trouble. She believed him and sent the money in an effort to help.

June 21, 2012
Placer County authorities seek victims in real estate scam

lordier william frank.jpgThe Placer County Sheriff's Department seeks to identify victims in a real estate scam allegedly run by a Meadow Vista man.

Detectives this week arrested William Frank Lordier (pictured), 54, with the assistance sheriff's authorities in Los Angeles County, where one of the victims lives.

Lordier, a former California real estate agent, was selling timeshares on Craigslist, according to a Sheriff's Department news release. Victims gave Lordier their bank account information, which he then allegedly used to take money from those accounts for his own personal gain.

June 19, 2012
Ex-head of El Dorado sheriff's association pleads no contest to fraud, embezzlement, perjury

Donald Atkinson, the former president of the El Dorado County Deputy Sheriff's Association and a retired sergeant, pleaded no contest on felony counts of embezzlement, fraud and perjury, according to Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the California Office of the Attorney General.

Prosecutors allege Atkinson stole money from the Deputy Sheriff's Association, filed perjured campaign finance reports and stole $100,000 from an elderly woman by securing a loan from her under false pretenses.

As part of a plea agreement, Atkinson will be sentenced to five years in state prison. He will pay $338,348.14 in restitution to the Deputy Sheriff's Association, and he will repay the $100,000 he is accused of stealing from the elderly woman, Gledhill said. In addition, she said, he will direct the California Public Employees' Retirement System to pay $1,000 per month from his retirement account to the victims while he is in prison and on parole.

Atkinson was arrested in March after an investigation by the California Attorney General's Office and the El Dorado District Attorney's Office. He will receive his sentence July 30, Gledhill said.

Editor's note: This story was changed to correct Atkinson's plea.

June 8, 2012
Former CHP officer faces fraud charges in Sacramento

Fraud charges have been filed in Sacramento against a retired CHP officer who claimed he had bad back -- but according to officials was captured on surveillance video-tape lifting 30-pound objects and moving furniture.

Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully announced today that felony workers' compensation insurance fraud and attempted perjury charges were filed against ex-California Highway Patrol officer Brian Christopher Hansen.

Hansen, 30, allegedly made false statements to doctors, investigators and in deposition about the extent of his disabilities caused by an on-duty back injury. Hansen stated he was only able to drive for very short periods, could not sit for more than a half-hour, couldn't lift more than 10 pounds and was could not even do office work.

May 23, 2012
Accused scam artist pleads not guilty

Daniel Chartraw, accused of multiple financial schemes that duped people of millions of dollars, entered a plea of not guilty in federal court today.

Chartraw, who had been a resident of El Dorado Hills, was indicted last week on 18 counts involving $2.4 million dollars in investments involving gold, dairies, movies and other allegedly bogus businesses.

Chartraw had been a fugitive until his arrest in Mexico in April.

He was scheduled to appear next before U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb.

May 23, 2012
Phony Microsoft tech support calls targeting Roseville residents

Roseville police are warning of calls from phony "Microsoft support technicians" who are interested in credit card fraud - not solving computer problems.

At least two Roseville residents have received unsolicited calls from the men with East Indian accents who said they were from Microsoft and wanted to help resolve computer issues.

One resident was talked into using her credit card to buy phony anti-virus remote access software. She was directed to download and install software, which allowed the scammers to get into data on the victim's computer, according to a police activity log.

May 11, 2012
Chico developer gets prison for housing scheme

William E. Baker of Chico was sentenced to 18 months in prison today, in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme in 2007, the U.S. Attorney in Sacramento announced.

Baker inflated sales prices of five homes to secure large loans and then used the money as kickbacks to purchasers, according to a press release from the office of U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner.

Baker pleaded guilty and will have three years of supervised probation following his release.

May 10, 2012
El Dorado Hills fugitive arrested by FBI

Federal authorities have arrested fugitive Daniel Lee Chartraw, a one-time El Dorado Hills resident who is accused of perpetrating huge frauds.

Chartraw is being held without bail in Sacramento after appearing in federal court Wednesday.

The FBI has not yet issued a statement on Chartraw's arrest but documents filed to obtain an arrest warrant accuse him of fraudulently having obtained a $1 million investment for an Arizona mineral extraction company he did not represent.

May 1, 2012
Five arrested in Sutter County for false-employment scam

By Denny Walsh
dwalsh@sacbee.com

Five individuals from Sutter County were arrested Tuesday in connection with a false-employment scam that has drained millions of dollars out of government coffers via sham unemployment and disability claims.

The five, along with another Sutter County resident not yet arrested, are charged in a criminal complaint filed Monday in Sacramento federal court.

Arrested Tuesday were Mohammad Nawaz Khan, 56, and Iqila Begum Khan, 31, both of Live Oak; and Mohammad Shahbaz Khan, 56; Gurdev Kaur Johl, 67; and Kewal Singh, 74, all of Yuba City. Also charged in the complaint but not arrested is Mohammad Adnan Khan, 32, of Live Oak.

April 17, 2012
Craigslist scam targets renters in Roseville

Roseville police are warning of a renter scam on Craigslist.

Police said that a person seeking to rent a home in Roseville responded to a Craigslist posting for a house only to find out that the poster was an imposter. Initially interested, the prospective renter became suspicious because of demands sought by the supposed landlord.

The person who said they were renting out the home wanted the rent and a security deposit sent to her via Western Union before she would show the house.

The renter investigated and learned from the actual agent renting the home that the Craigslist poster neither owned the house nor had authority to rent the home.

April 13, 2012
Yolo DA's Office warns of phony text messages targeting cell phone users

The Yolo County District Attorney's Office advises people to be alert to a scam involving phony text messages to cell phone users.

Officials cite two messages in particular. The first begins: "Dear Walmart Shopper, Congratulations you have just won a $1000 dollar Walmart Gift Card." The second begins: "Apple is looking for people to Text & Keep the New iPad 3!" Both messages ask the cell phone users to click or go to a website provided.

Authorities advise people to delete these messages.

April 13, 2012
Chico developer Symmes sentenced in federal court

By Denny Walsh

dwalsh@sacbee.com

Prominent Chico developer Anthony G. Symmes was sentenced today in federal court to a month less than three years in prison on his plea of guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering in connection with a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud.

Symmes, 61, has already shelled out $4 million to the government that is available to victim-lenders who make a valid claim.

The 35-month sentence was dramatically reduced because of Symmes' extraordinary assistance to the government in its pursuit and prosecution of his fellow crooks.

April 7, 2012
Sacramento man victim of cash scam

By Carlos Alcalá

calcala@sacbee.com

Two men conned an elderly victim out of a large amount of cash in the Greenhaven area Friday, police reported.

The man told police he was contacted by two men who claimed they were lost and needed information on how banks operated in the United States.

One of the men was described as having a Nigerian accent.

March 29, 2012
Detectives seek additional victims in scam targeting seniors

Sacramento County sheriff's investigators would like to talk to anyone who was the victim of suspects arrested in a scam targeting seniors.

On Jan. 20, sheriff's deputies responded to a call regarding the robbery and kidnapping of a 70-year-old woman. While shopping at a wholesale warehouse in south Sacramento County, the victim was approached by two women in the parking lot. The women showed the victim a package of money that they claimed to have found, according to a Sheriff's Department news release.

The women persuaded the victim to accompany them to a bank where the money was supposedly authenticated by one of the suspects' family members, reportedly a bank employee. The suspects then persuaded the victim to pay them several thousand dollars in return for sharing a portion of the found money. The suspects drove the victim to various banks to withdraw the money to pay them.

March 28, 2012
Antelope man sentenced to prison for defrauding trucking firms

An Antelope man has been sentenced to 10 years and 10 months in prison for defrauding trucking companies.

Kulwant Singh Gill, 53, was sentenced Tuesday in Sacramento by U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton for a scheme to defraud trucking firms out of payments for interstate freight deliveries. Gill was ordered to pay $443,388 in restitution to the victims. He also will be subject to three years of supervised release following his prison term.

Gill pleaded guilty Sept. 22, 2009, to charges involving the scheme in two separate indictments, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

March 21, 2012
Feds move to seize assets allegedly scammed from Auburn tribe

By Denny Walsh and Sam Stanton
dwalsh@sacbee.com

Federal agents are moving to seize 32 properties stretching from Sacramento to Hawaii to San Diego in an alleged kickback and money laundering scheme that they say drained $18 million from the coffers of the tribe that runs the Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln.

Documents filed by the Internal Revenue Service in U.S. District Court in Sacramento late Tuesday allege that Sacramento developer Bart Volen and two others systematically siphoned off millions from the United Auburn Indian Community while they oversaw the construction of office buildings that now serve as the tribe's headquarters.

The IRS is seeking to seize the properties -- including condominiums in Hawaii, San Diego and South Lake Tahoe -- that the agency says were purchased with money taken from the tribe in an overbilling scheme.

March 16, 2012
Judge orders Sacramento library figure to pay $824,097 restitution

A judge today ordered the former maintenance superintendent of the Sacramento Public Library Authority to pay the agency back $824,097 in the billing scandal for which he has been convicted and sentenced to prison.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen H. Sumner imposed the levy on the former library employee, Dennis Nilsson, who was convicted in the kickback scheme Dec. 9 and who was later sentenced to prison for 14 years.

Deputy District Attorney MIke Blazina asked for a $1.4 million restitution order, but Sumner said that contractors involved in the scandal had provided the district with some needed maintenance work and that it should not be subject to the effort to recover the library's losses.

Sumner also scheduled a hearing for May 11 on the DA's request to appoint a receiver to search out the assets of Nilsson and co-defendants James Mayle, the library's former security director, and his wife, Janie Rankins-Mayle, who set up an outside billing firm that processed the funds in the kickback scheme.

Mayle is the former chief of the now-defunct Grant school district. Rankins-Mayle is a former captain for the Port of Sacramento police agency. They both also were convicted and sentenced to prison -- six years for her, five years and four months for him.

Blazina said outside court that he is seeking a $781,000 restitution order on the Mayles.

March 13, 2012
Grandparent scam cheats Woodland woman out of $14,000

A Woodland grandmother was recently bilked out of $14,000 when she fell for a well-known telephone scam.

Woodland police called attention to the swindle and released tips on how to avoid what is commonly called the "Grandparent Scam." In the most recent instance it went like this:

The woman received a call from a person claiming to be her grandson. He told her that he had been arrested in Canada following a traffic accident and needed money to fix the vehicle.

She wired $1,000.

Over the next few weeks, more phone calls were received from the phony grandson and his phony attorney. Money was needed to help defend a lawsuit stemming from the made-up car crash, the scammers said.

The Woodland grandmother kept making wire transfers and is now out $14,000, said police. Police were contacted March 7 by the woman who finally figured out she had been scammed.

Tips to avoid the scam:

- Verify the caller's identity by asking personal questions a stranger could not answer.

- Resist acting immediately

- Call someone you know to help verify the story.

- Avoid giving credit card or bank information to anyone you don't know personally.

March 12, 2012
Guard, wife in sex shooting convicted of attempted perjury

MC_FRAUD.03.JPGA Sacramento jury today convicted a former state correctional officer and his wife of attempted perjury related to a workers comp case they sought in regards to his shooting at a San Francisco sex club.

The same panel could not reach verdicts on all the remaining fraud-related charges against John Alfonzo Smiley and Cynthia Ann Bias-Smiley.

Superivising Deputy District Attorney Kelly Mulcahy announced in court that her office would retry the two defendants on the remaining charges. Mulcahy said the retrial date has been set for May 7.

March 7, 2012
It's all about the Benjamins in Roseville scam

A quick-change artist recently duped a clerk in Roseville with an old scam.

On March 1, a man gave the clerk at a Harding Boulevard business five $20 bills and requested a $100 bill in exchange.

The clerk handed him a $100 bill, but the man showed her a $10 bill, claiming that is what she mistakenly gave him, according to a Roseville police activity log.

He eventually talked her into taking back the ten and giving him another $100 bill. It's an old trick, police said.

February 17, 2012
Elk Grove man sentenced in mortgage fraud case

By Rick Daysog
rdaysog@sacbee.com

An Elk Grove man was sentenced today to four years and nine months in prison for his role in an $8 million mortgage fraud scheme.

U.S. District Judge Edward Garcia also ordered Gabriel Viramontes, 49, to pay restitution after a jury found him guilty last March on bank and mail fraud charges.

According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Viramontes and his Sacramento-based partners -- 34-year-old James Roy Martin and 42-year-old Mario Fellini III -- recruited straw buyers who purchased 19 homes in the Sacramento area using phony documentation.

The sales generated illegal kickbacks and "substantial loan broker commissions," federal prosecutors said.

Martin and Fellini pleaded guilty previously and testified against Viramontes. Martin was sentenced to 20.5 months in prison and Fellini will get six months in prison plus five months of home detention.

January 30, 2012
Owner of motorized wheelchair business admits defrauding customers

A former Sacramento man pleaded guilty today to wire fraud for defrauding customers of his motorized wheelchair and scooter business.

Carlos B. Jerez, 35, who lived most recently in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., pleaded guilty in federal court in Sacramento to 16 counts of wire fraud, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

According to court documents, Jerez owned 1st Class Mobility Inc., a business that offered to sell motorized wheelchairs and scooters over the Internet. Between April 2008 and April 20009, Jerez and 1st Class Mobility received payment from consumers for motorized wheelchairs and scooters but had neither the ability nor intention to deliver the devices.

January 23, 2012
Three Sacramento women arrested in false tax return scheme

Three Sacramento women were arrested today, accused of stealing taxpayers' identities and their tax refunds.

According to federal court documents, Nadiyah Muhammad Woods, 33; Nakia Renee Vaughn, 26; and Tomisha Lee McKinnie, 24, are charged in a conspiracy to defraud the United States through the filing of false tax returns using TurboTax, an income tax preparation software and filing service.

The women are charged with executing a mail fraud scheme to obtain Green Dot debit cards, a service offered through the TurboTax software, loaded with the tax return money of taxpayer victims.

January 23, 2012
Yolo County DA warns of phony collection agency calls

The Yolo County District Attorney's Office is warning residents, particularly older adults, to beware of phony collection agency calls.

Several people recently contacted the Yolo County District Attorney's Elder Protection Unit to report phone calls from people pretending to be from a collection agency. In one instance, the caller claimed to be an attorney and that more than $800 was owed for magazine subscriptions.

Officials warn that crooks can disguise the number they are calling from by using computers.

January 20, 2012
Judge reschedules sentencing in library kickback scheme

A judge hit with several late sentencing motions in the Sacramento library corruption scandal today postponed his imposition of the terms on the three defendants convicted in the case.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen H. Sumner rescheduled for next Friday the sentencing of the library's former facilities director Dennis Nilsson, former security chief James Mayle and Mayle's wife, Janie Rankins-Mayle.

The three were convicted in a kickback scheme on outsourced maintenance contracts that purportedly looted the library of $780,000 from 2004 to 2007.

Deputy District Attorney Mike Blazina is seeking terms of 18 years and four months on Nilsson and 11 years and four months on the Mayles.

Nilsson is seeking a reduced term from the D.A.'s proposal while the Mayles are asking for probation.


January 12, 2012
Doctor posing as Sacramento clinic owner sentenced in scam

A Los Angeles physician who assumed the role as co-owner of a Sacramento medical clinic has been sentenced to federal prison for his participation in a Medicare fraud scam.

Alexander Popov, 47, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Morrison C.England Jr. to eight years and one month in prison for committing health care fraud and conspiring to commit health care fraud, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. He was found guilty by a jury in July.

In sentencing, Judge England found that Popov was responsible for more than a million dollars in fraudulent billings submitted to Medicare and more than $600,000 in payments made on false claims.

January 11, 2012
Look out for phony Ronald McDonald magazine sales fundraiser

Magazine subscription sellers are going door-to-door with phony claims that they are raising money the Ronald McDonald House.

Ronald McDonald House Charities is not mounting a magazine sales drive to raise money. The sellers are fraudulently representing themselves as being part of the charity.

"It's appalling that certain individuals are attempting to deceive the community under the guise of raising money for seriously ill and injured children," said Stacey Hodge, director of community relations.

The charity has two major fundraisers a year: the Red Shoe Crawl and the RMHC Golf Classic.

The Sacramento Ronald McDonald House provides accommodations for family members when their child is hospitalized.

January 4, 2012
Roseville scam alert: Telephone call fraud, car repair racket

Roseville police are alerting residents to two scams recently aimed at citizens.

One of the scams involves telephone fraud and the other car repair extortion. In both instances, the citizens did not cooperate with the suspected rip-off artists, a police activity log noted.

In the telephone fraud, a resident on Dec. 26 received a call from somebody claiming to be from the City of Roseville. The caller said that the resident's electric bill was past due and immediate payment was needed.

The caller asked for credit card or bank account information over the telephone. The resident checked her current bill and verified it was not past due.

She refused to provide the scammer with any personal information, police said.

In the case of the car repair scam, a resident on Dec. 26 was leaving a business in the 300 block of North Sunrise Avenue when his vehicle was blocked by a gray 2008 Honda Civic. The occupants of the Honda offered to fix the citizen's car dent for $150.

He declined, but the men were very insistent, police said.

To get away, the citizen told the men he would agree to the repair but needed to withdraw money from his ATM. The resident instead drove away and called police.

The scammers followed and continued to pester him, leaving when officers arrived in the area. No arrests were made.

December 20, 2011
Accomplice in psychologist's alleged fake rape, robbery report arrested

The woman accused of helping her friend fake a home-invasion robbery and a sexual assault has been arrested.

Nicole Snyder, 33, was booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail on Dec. 12 and released later that day on $5,000 bail. She was arraigned Monday on two counts of felony criminal conspiracy.

Snyder is accused of assisting Laurie Martinez, a supervising psychologist with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, stage a crime in Martinez's Norgard Court home in April so Martinez could convince her husband to move to another neighborhood, authorities allege.

December 20, 2011
Man accused of defrauding Granite Bay woman of more than $7 million

A 45-year-old man was arrested in Los Angeles today after he allegedly defrauded a Granite Bay woman out of more than $7 million in divorce proceeds, authorities said.

Troy Stratos is charged with 11 counts of wire and mail fraud, two counts of money laundering and one count of obstruction of justice, a news release from the office of U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner states.

Wagner's office says Stratos convinced the woman to execute a revocable trust with him in Fair Oaks into which she placed cash from her divorce and houses. He promised to invest the money overseas and earn a high rate in return, but he diverted "substantial sums of money" for his own use, the news release states.

October 28, 2011
Folsom police warn of alleged mail phishing

Folsom police are warning city residents to be watch out for what they say are phony invoices in the mail.

The alleged scam generated from Southern California involves an entity named UST Inc. or UST Development, police said. Officers say UST has sent bogus invoices to Folsom businesses.

October 18, 2011
Sacramento businessman sentenced to federal prison for investment fraud

By Denny Walsh

dwalsh@sacbee.com

A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced well-known Sacramento businessman Collins Max "Collie" Christensen Sr. to five years in prison for investment fraud - a term in excess of two years beyond what his plea bargain called for and more than a year and a half above the top of the sentencing guidelines.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Carlberg and defense lawyer McGregor Scott told the judge they felt the three years and nine months they earlier had agreed on was fair and just punishment.

But U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez, whose opinion was the only one that counted in the end, said he didn't believe their negotiated time behind bars adequately reflected the immense damage done to the investors.

October 6, 2011
Two men reported to be imposters at CSUS were actually police

Sacramento State police said a report in which two men claimed to be officers in a conversation with a female student actually were members of law enforcement.

The student reported that at 1 p.m. Monday she was approached in the River Front Center near the Guy West Bridge by two men who claimed to be campus security officers. They told her they were conducting an investigation and asked her to accompany them to a nearby parking lot to assist in their investigation, according to a campus Police Department news release.

The student refused and contacted campus police.

September 30, 2011
El Dorado County Sheriff's Office warns of credit card scam

The El Dorado County Sheriff's Office is warning the public of a credit card scam, after receiving reports from several victims.

Victims give this account of how the transaction occurs, according to a Sheriff's Office news release:

Your phone rings and if you have caller ID, a 1-888 number will appear. The caller offers a low fixed-rate interest rate on a credit card or credit card consolidation. The caller then asks for credit card numbers, expiration dates, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden name and other verification passwords.

Once the caller has obtained the information, the caller tells you they need to process the information and will call you back. In addition, there will be a one-time financial fee, which will vary in amount.

September 30, 2011
Sacramento grand jury indicts 6 in mortgage fraud scheme

By Rick Daysog

rdaysog@sacbee.com

A federal grand jury has indicted six Sacramento area residents in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme that allegedly bilked $1.8 million from several banks.

Angela Shavlovsky, 52, of Sacramento; Vitaliy Tuzman, 31, of West Sacramento; 34-year-old Alexander Kokhanets of Roseville; 38-year-old Boris Murzak and 40-year-old Zinaida Murzak, both of Sacramento; and Valeri Mysin, 31, of Citrus Heights were charged Wednesday with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

September 21, 2011
Sacramento woman sentenced to two years for grand theft

The Sacramento County district attorney announced today that a Sacramento-area woman was sentenced to two years in prison for grand theft against a statewide program that provides services to the blind, disabled and elderly.

Elizabeth Garcia, 28, pled no contest to having stolen $28,831 from the In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, which provides services or funding to income-eligible people who cannot remain in their home without assistance. After qualifying for the program, recipients may elect a relative or a friend to perform the services they require.

Garcia enrolled her mother without her knowledge or necessity and forged her mother's signature on the time sheets to claim payment from IHSS for services she didn't provide.

September 15, 2011
Five Sacramentans indicted in alleged $26 million ponzi scheme

By Dale Kasler
dkasler@sacbee.com

Five Sacramentans have been accused of running a $26 million real estate investment fraud.

A federal grand jury indicted the five in connection with an investment scam orchestrated by a company called Diversified Management Consultants Inc., or DMC. That company was an "umbrella organization" for a group of investment clubs with names like Genesis Innovations and Equishare Capital, the indictment stated.

The indictment said 180 investors were victimized by the scam. They were promised big profits, but instead their money was diverted to pay off earlier investors and to fund the defendants' "luxury lifestyle expenditures," the U.S. attorney's office said.

September 15, 2011
Folsom man indicted for defrauding investors with promised cure for cancer

By Rick Daysog
rdaysog@sacbee.com

A federal grand jury has indicted a Folsom man for a high-tech scheme that allegedly took more than $6.5 million from 300 investors.

According to a 23-count indictment, Matthew Sarad, 38, told investors that his company Telomolecular Corp. was in the process of completing clinical trials and obtaining government approval for nanoparticle technology that could be used to eradicate cancer and treat age-related illnesses.

But federal prosecutors said Telomolecular had no completed product and that the company was not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as required by law.

September 12, 2011
Mother, daughter sentenced for theft from IHSS program

A mother and daughter have pleaded no contest in Sacramento County Superior Court to committing grand theft against the In Home Supportive Services program.

Judge Lawrence Brown sentenced Aquilla Parrish, 51, to two years in prison, and her daughter, Quilla Parrish, 31, to three years in prison. Both women were ordered to pay restitution to the IHSS program, as well as the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance. They also agreed to pay restitution on other counts which were dismissed as part of the negotiated disposition, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release.

IHSS is a statewide program that provides services to income-eligible people who are blind, elderly or disabled, and who would be unable to remain in their homes without assistance. To qualify, recipients must be at risk for out-of-home placement due to functional disabilities. Authorized services include food shopping and preparation, cleaning, personal care needs and accompaniment to medical appointments.

September 9, 2011
Prisoner accused of trying to file false liens against officials

A federal grand jury in Fresno has indicted a federal prison inmate for attempting to file false liens against 14 federal prison officials.

The grand jury Thursday returned a multiple-count indictment charging Denard Darnell Neal, 48, of Avondale, Ariz., with attempting to file false liens and encumbrances against federal prison officials in violation of the Court Security Act of 2007, according federal Department of Justice news release.

The indictment alleges that in April 2010, while Neal was incarcerated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in Atwater, he attempted to execute a scheme to file false liens and encumbrances against the real and personal property of 14 federal prison officers. As part of the scheme, Neal allegedly prepared false Uniform Commercial Code financing statements and commercial lien security agreements, purporting to make certain officers his debtors. The amounts of the false liens ranged from $5,000 to $45 million.

September 7, 2011
Two plead guilty in Sacramento mortgage fraud case

By Denny Walsh
dwalsh@sacbee.com

Two crooks in a mortgage scam pleaded guilty Tuesday in Sacramento federal court to mail fraud and making false statements on loan applications.

Nicole Dawson of Oakland and Ronald Burris Jr. of Elk Grove were charged in June 2010, along with eight others, in a conspiracy involving Liberty Real Estate and Investment Co. and Liberty Mortgage Co., both owned by co-defendant Hoda Samuel.

The companies were instrumental in purchases of at least 30 homes in the Sacramento area in 2006 and 2007. The dirty deals typically had 100 percent financing based on bogus information regarding the buyers' employment, income, and intent to live in the homes.

August 26, 2011
Woman linked in death of Sacramento attorney released from prison

The former college student implicated in the 2001 murder of Larry McNabney, a flamboyant Sacramento attorney, has been released from prison, officials confirmed today.

Sarah Dutra, 31, was released this morning from the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla and is now on active parole in Solano County, said Luis Patino, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Dutra was sentenced to 11 years, and she served almost eight-and-a-half, Patino said. Violent offenders in the state of California typically serve 85 percent of their sentence, and Dutra got credit for time served prior to her conviction, Patino said. (Earlier today, the CDCR incorrectly reported that Dutra had served her full 11-year sentence).

August 25, 2011
Association warns of fraud ring soliciting for donations

The California Education Technology Professionals Association is warning residents about a fraud ring operating in Northern California that is using young people to go door to door asking for money to support the organization's Student Bridge to the Future Scholarship.

The association does not solicit individuals for donations to support the scholarship, according to a news release. The organization has received calls regarding the fraudulent solicitations from El Cerrito, San Ramon and Oakland.

In some cases, young people have been reported canvassing neighborhoods, allegedly selling magazine subscriptions. In other cases, they have offered services such as lawn care or house work in effort to obtain money.

August 12, 2011
Sacramento man pleads guilty to fraud charges

By Rick Daysog
rdaysog@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man accused of operating a real estate ponzi scheme has pleaded guilty to four federal counts of wire fraud.

Garry Bradford, 62, was president of a local "investment club" which took in $2.2 million from local investors between 2004 and 2008 to purchase land and local commercial buildings, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner.

The club, dubbed the Millenium Capital Group, promised returns of about 18 percent to investors who dipped into their retirement accounts or refinanced their homes to invest with Bradford, an April federal grand jury indictment said.

July 29, 2011
Chico home builder pleads guilty in mortgage fraud scheme

A Chico man today pleaded guilty in federal court in Sacramento to one count of mail fraud for his role in a multimillion-dollar "building bailout" mortgage fraud scheme.

During his plea hearing in district court, William E. Baker, 65, admitted that he and others conspired with Garret Griffith Gililland III, 30, formerly of Chico, to artificially inflate the sales prices of new homes sold to Gililland's buyers, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. After close of escrow, Baker & Baker Construction would rebate significant sums of money to a front company controlled by Gililland.

On one occasion, Baker misrepresented the purpose of the payments to Gililland's company as "improvements for three houses." In fact, officials said, Giilland's company made no improvements to homes sold by Baker to Gililland's buyers.

July 20, 2011
Sacramento real estate professionals charged with $4 million mortgage fraud

Seven Sacramento-area real estate professionals have been charged with committing mortgage fraud with losses totaling $4 million.

Moctezuma Tovar, 42, owned and operated Delta Homes and Lending, Inc., where Sacramento residents Manuel Herrera, 31, Ruben Rodriguez, 34, and Jaime Mayorga, 32, worked as licensed real estate agents.

A former loan officer, Sandra Hermosillo, 49, of Woodland, along with former loan processors and Jun Michael Dirian, 38, of Antelope and Christian Parada Renteria, 35, of Sacramento also worked for Tovar at Delta Homes.

July 12, 2011
Folsom police suspect debit card skimmer led to $50,000 in fraudulent purchases

A man is suspected of taking $50,000 from victims, possibly by placing a debit card reading device somewhere in the Sacramento region.

The Folsom Police Department is asking for the public's help in finding the man who they suspect has used a "skimming device." Skimming devices have in the past been placed at gas pumps.

When customers use debit or credit cards, the skimming device reads the vital information on the card. The account information is then used by thieves to make purchases or debit accounts.

June 13, 2011
Folsom fast-food restaurants allege scam, two arrested

Folsom police arrested Katheran Willis, 24, and James Armstrong, 41, yesterday on suspicion of stealing cash from fast-food restaurants with a simple scam.

According to the Folsom Police Department, Armstrong called the restaurants and pretended to be from their corporate headquarters. He told managers that the restaurants overcharged a customer by $80 and that she would be returning to collect a refund. Then, Willis would go the restaurant, and staff would hand her the cash.

They repeated this scheme at a Subway, a Togo's, a Straw Hat Pizza, and an It's a Grind, according to the department. When Armstrong called the Smash Burger on East Bidwell Street in Folsom, the manager recognized the scam from a police department press release circulated by the Folsom Chamber of Commerce.

June 8, 2011
Sacramento men convicted in fraudulent investment scheme

A federal jury has found two Sacramento men guilty of wire fraud in connection with a fraudulent investment scheme.

According to court documents, Ronald Wesley Groves, 69, was the co-founder and president of Money Growth Solutions, which operated from approximately April 2005 to April 2006. Donald Charles Mann, 54, was the co-founder and secretary-treasurer.

During the firm's year of operation, Groves and Mann raised about $4.8 million from approximately 642 investors by promising extremely high rates of return on "international bank trades," according to a federal Department of Justice news release. The defendants told investors that the bank trades were a highly secretive investment vehicle known only to a few people around the world.

June 2, 2011
Folsom PD: Reimbursement scam targets local eateries

Folsom police are warning local businesses of a scam used twice at local eateries in the last week.

On May 30, the Togo's on East Bidwell Street received a phone call from an individual claiming to be in the company's corporate office, who told employees that a customer had accidentally been overcharged by $80 for a food order a couple days earlier, according to a Folsom Police Department release.

The caller advised employees that the customer would be returning to the restaurant to collect the money that she had been overcharged.

May 31, 2011
Suspect identified in Sacramento home burglary scam

The Sacramento Police Department is looking for a 33-year-old Bobby John (below), who is wanted in connection with a burglary in which he allegedly used a ruse to get the victim out of the targeted house.

Bobby John.jpgFrom March through May, the Police Department investigated 12 burglaries in which suspects posing as plumbers or contractors approached elderly victims in their homes. The suspects used a ruse to get the victims to go into their backyard. While the resident was outside the house, accomplices went inside and burglarized the home.

On April 15, John allegedly contacted the victim at a home in the 6000 block of Tahoe Way posing as a contractor, according to a Police Department news release. The victim went with the suspect into the backyard to look at a water leak.

May 27, 2011
UC Davis, Sacramento State alert public to fundraising scams

UC Davis is asking the public to be wary of an apparent fundraising scam in which people are going door-to-door soliciting donations for the university's marching band and students in two of its academic departments, according to a university news release.

A similar warning was issued by Sacramento State earlier this week.

Several people have called UC Davis reporting they were asked for money to support a trip to London for either the university's marching band or students in the departments of Music or Theatre and Dance, the UC Davis release states. Neither the band nor the two departments are raising funds to support a trip to London, and they do not solicit money door-to-door, according to the release.

May 25, 2011
Scammers selling magazines posing as Sac State students

Two young women posing as Sacramento State students are running a magazine-selling scam, university officials said.

The young women claim to be students from the university's Department of Theatre & Dance. They purport to be selling magazines to win a trip to London and they claim the department will use magazine sales proceeds to put on a production of "The Taming of the Shrew."

A press release from California State University, Sacramento also states that the two women falsely claim they are raising money for Shriner's Hospital.

Neither Shriners nor Sacramento State solicits funds in the manner being conducted by the two women, the university said. The Theatre & Dance Department is not sponsoring any trips to London.

May 21, 2011
Sacramento robbers lure victims with Craigslist ads, police say

At least three people reported being robbed in the 3000 block of Altos Avenue over the past week, after answering ads on Craigslist, two of them for televisions, Sacramento police reported.

One victim picked up the suspects in Roseville and drove them to Altos Avenue, where they robbed him at gunpoint.

In the other incidents, victims answering the advertisement were directed to the area, where they were robbed after meeting the purported sellers.

April 21, 2011
Men accused of using fake UPC codes to steal merchandise in Auburn

Two Reno men have been arrested after allegedly carrying out a scam to steal items from Auburn's Home Depot.

Scott K. Nelson, 46, (bottom left) and C. Nicholas Psarras, 47, (bottom right) were booked into Placer County Jail on Sunday afternoon after loss prevention employees reported observing Nelson place his homemade UPC stickers over the store's UPC stickers on boxes in his cart. After ringing up his own purchases at the self-service register, Nelson exited the store and was confronted by employees, according to a Placer County Sheriff's Department news release.

Officials said he fought with the employees before being handcuffed and taken back to the store. It was determined that Nelson had paid $97 for items valued at $810, according to the news release.

April 15, 2011
Fake Placer County check alerts New York woman to scam

In another twist on an old scam, a New York woman was introduced to Placer County this week when she found herself the target of con artists.

Osnat Edrich immediately knew something was amiss Tuesday when she received a check for $2,980 purporting to be from the county of Placer and bearing the address 2980 Richardson Drive, in the county government center in Auburn.

Edrich said she had never heard of Placer County or Auburn and had no idea why she would receive such a payment, until she received an email announcing her "first official assignment" and directing her to "get it done ASAP."

January 11, 2011
Two men plead guilty in wide-ranging credit card scam

By Loretta Kalb
lkalb@sacbee.com

Two men pleaded guilty in a sophisticated identity theft scheme and have been sentenced for their roles in stealing more than $90,000 from nearly 200 people in Northern California, including eight people in Sacramento County, the state Attorney General's office announced today.

David Karapetyan, 32, pleaded guilty to 37 felonies and received a seven-year prison sentence in Contra Costa Superior Court in Martinez, an AG spokesman reported. Zhirayr Zamanyan, 31, pleaded guilty to five felonies and received a five-year prison sentence.

Two other defendants are scheduled to appear in court Feb. 15 in connection with the spree, which occurred from November 2009 to February 2010.

November 1, 2010
FBI seeks couple in connection with reported Ponzi scheme

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking the public's help in locating a husband and wife wanted in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme.

FBI officials said recent information indicates that Perry and Rachelle Griggs may be in the Sacramento area.

The two were indicted by a federal grand jury in Honolulu last week on 13 counts of wire and mail fraud related to a Ponzi scheme they allegedly operated from 2005 through 2009, primarily targeting Hawaii residents.

According to the indictment, the Griggses operated Aloha Trading, a company purporting to be in the business of commodities trading on behalf of clients. The indictment alleges that the Aloha Trading investment program was a Ponzi scheme in which investors' returns were derived from their own principal investments and money from later investors.

At the time the alleged scheme was active, Rachelle Griggs lived in Las Vegas and Perry Griggs was incarcerated in prisons in Nevada, Texas and California. FBI officials said Griggs was serving time in federal prison for running a Ponzi scheme when he allegedly conducted the Ponzi scheme for which he is currently charged.

While in prison in Nevada, Perry Griggs was housed with a large number of inmates from Hawaii, according to an FBI news release. The indictment alleges that the Griggses marketed the Aloha Trading investment program to inmates and their families.

According to the indictment, investors obtained mortgage loans, or liquidated their retirement and personal savings to invest in the Aloha Trading program. Between September 2005 and June 2009, Aloha Trading allegedly received approximately $3 million from 12 separate investors, nine of whom lived in Hawaii.

In September 2008, Perry Griggs was released from federal prison and lived in Las Vegas with Rachelle Griggs until they both disappeared in January 2010.

FBI officials said they consider this to be a national fugitive manhunt with primary focus on the states of Nevada, Washington and California. The Griggses are from the Everett/Maryville, Wash., area and lived in Santa Ana through the 1990s, according to the FBI.

Perry Griggs, 49, is described as 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing 180 ponds, with gray hair and blue eyes. He is known to have expensive tastes in sports cars, high-end clothing, cigars and golf, according to the news release.

Rachelle Louise Griggs, also known as Rachelle Rutledge, is 42, 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighing 150 pounds with blond hair and green eyes.

Anyone who recognizes the couple or has information about their current location is asked to call the Honolulu FBI at (808) 566-4300.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

November 1, 2010
Sacramento man sentenced in scam on elderly Davis woman

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man has been sentenced to prison for stealing $17,000 from an elderly Davis woman.

Yolo County Superior Court Judge Kathleen White last week sentenced Willie Vains Jr., 42, to six years in prison.

Vains and a partner had charged an elderly woman in Davis more than $17,000 for supposed "handyman work." Most of the work was never done, and work that was completed was valued at little more than $1,000, according to a news release from the Yolo County District Attorney's Office.

Vains and his partner also physically intimidated the woman to get her to pay them the money.

Officials said Vains was involved in a similar scam in the 1990s, involving three elderly victims.

White denied a motion to dismiss a prior "strike" offense against Vains.

Vains' partner, Claude Gaither, was sentenced earlier this year to four year in prison for his role in the theft.

District Attorney Jeff Reisig credited vigilant friends and neighbors who discovered that the Davis woman was being scammed, and Davis Police Department detectives who spent months working on the case.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

October 29, 2010
CAL FIRE warns of phone donation scam

By Queenie Wong
qwong@sacbee.com

Residents who receive calls from a person requesting monetary donations for the training of CAL FIRE firefighters should keep their wallets closed, according to fire officials.

The state agency says that the phone solicitation is part of a recent donation scam and that funding for CAL FIRE comes from the department's budget, not from solicitations.

The agency learned about the scam after a resident of Santa Clara County reported receiving such a call, according to the news release.

If you receive a call, the agency said to try to get as much information as possible and then report it to CAL FIRE Law Enforcement Officers at (408) 778-0930.

"We hope that by getting the word out early no one will give their money to these criminals and that if residents do get a call from a scammer, they will be prepared to gather pertinent information so we can put a stop to this," said Josh White, CAL FIRE deputy chief of law enforcement, in a statement.

Call The Bee's Queenie Wong, (916) 321-1008.

October 7, 2010
Calaveras County contractor accused of felonies over work

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A former licensed contractor whose state license was taken away earlier this year has been arrested and faces several felony and misdemeanor charges involving contracting with a revoked license and failure to carry workers' compensation insurance.

Brian Gross, 55, of Valley Springs in Calaveras County was arrested Oct. 1 by investigators from the Contractors State License Board Statewide Investigation Fraud Team and the Amador County District Attorney's Office, according to license board news release.

Gross' general building contractor's license was revoked June 1 for failure to pay two separate administrative citations totaling more than $4,000, the release states. His license had expired Dec. 31, 2009.

Last week, building officials in Jackson tipped state fraud team investigators to Gross' attempt to obtain a local business license using his revoked contractor license number. Gross was arrested when he and three employees were found roofing a home in Jackson.

Gross faces a felony count of fraudulent use of a contractor license number and misdemeanor counts for contracting without a license, illegal advertising, displaying a revoked license, failure to carry workers' compensation insurance and soliciting an excessive down payment, officials said. He is to be arraigned Oct. 15 in Amador Superior Court.

Gross' past administrative citations, according to the news release, were for filing false exemptions to avoid paying for workers' compensation insurance, failure to secure building permits, charging excessive down payments, working outside of his license classification, illegal advertising and illegal contracts.

California law requires that any home improvement job valued at $500 or more for labor and materials be done by a licensed contractor.

Licensees must carry workers' compensation coverage for all employees so that homeowners are not financially liable if a worker is injured on their property.

Roofing contractors must purchase workers' compensation coverage for themselves as well as their employees.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

September 29, 2010
Sacramento PD: Scam turns into armed robbery

By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

An elderly man looking for recyclable was approached by a scam artist and eventually robbed by another man Tuesday in Northgate, Sacramento police said.

The 77-year-old man was near Northgate Boulevard and San Juan Road about 4:30 p.m. when he was approached by a man who said he needed a lawyer in order to cash a $250,000 lottery ticket.

The victim agreed to give the man $1,800 in order to hire a lawyer to secure the $250,000 prize money.

Another man police consider a suspect then drove up in a car to take the victim to the bank for the withdrawal, a police report stated.

The victim also told police the second man had a gun.

Fearing for his safety, the elderly man got into the car. He was driven to the bank and turned money over to the suspects before they fled, according to police.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

September 15, 2010
Sacramento police warn of phone scam targeting utility customers

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

The Sacramento Police Department is warning residents of a scam targeting utility customers that could compromise the customer's credit card and bank information.

Police said the Sacramento Municipal Utility District notified the department of the scam this week. It is accomplished by someone pretending to work for a utility company contacting the victim by phone. The person tells the victim that there is a billing issue involving a lack of payment and that their utilities will be turned off without immediate payment.

The victim, thinking their service will be turned off, provides the caller with credit card or bank information that can be used to compromise the victim's accounts.

Police remind people never to provide personal information -- including Social Security, credit card and bank account numbers -- over the telephone.

SMUD reports that its customer service representative will never call a customer and ask for financial information over the telephone.

Anyone who receives a suspicious call is advised to ask for the caller's name, then hang up and call the utility company's published phone number.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

September 13, 2010
Roseville police warn of credit card scam

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

The Roseville Police Department is advising consumers to carefully monitor their banking and credit card transactions, citing an unusual number of local cases in which thieves have collected credit card numbers and used them to fraudulently make purchases.

"We believe there have been at least 200 victims who have experienced fraudulent credit card activity, and that number is growing," said Dee Dee Gunther, police department spokeswoman.

The earliest of the cases under investigation appears to date back to March, she said. The pattern became apparent last week, when lending institutions contacted the department after noting that many of the credit card fraud victims at some time over the past several months used their credit cards at Roseville restaurants that use the same third-party credit processing service.

Because the investigation is ongoing, Gunther said, police are not releasing the names of the restaurants involved. She said detectives are busy returning calls to victims to find out where and when their credit cards were used, and whether they are connected to this case.

Authorities don't know whether local individuals were involved in the fraud, or whether cyber-criminals elsewhere found a way to hack into the electronic process.

Police said its appears that victims' credit card numbers were compromised electronically at some point between the point of sale and the data processing service that relays transactions between merchants and their customers' lending institutions. When criminals collect credit card information electronically, they typically sell the information to other criminals, who then use the credit card number to manufacture false credit cards or to purchase items online.

Because of the scope of the investigations, the Roseville Police Department is working with the U.S. Secret Service, which conducts initial investigations into financial crimes, Gunther said. Several financial institutions have alerted their customers that their credit cards were, or may have been, compromised and have taken steps to protect the card holders.

"Although we don't have all the answers yet, we want to notify the public, especially diners in our area, to be especially vigilant about monitoring their credit cards for signs of fraud," Gunther said.

Police advise consumers who notice unauthorized, or attempted unauthorized transactions to:

* Immediately notify the lending institution of the potential compromise.

* Ask the lending institution to block the old credit card and issue a new one with a new number.

* File a report with a local law enforcement agency.

* Continue to closely monitor credit card transactions, and if fraud has occurred, place a fraud alert with the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Lending institutions may already have a plan to provide that service for their customer.

Although criminals are able to use stolen credit card numbers temporarily, police said, financial institutions usually will be able to reimburse customers for their losses and block the account from future intrusions using the compromised credit card numbers.

To contact the three major credit reporting bureaus call: Equifax, (800) 685-1111; Experian (888) 397-3742; and TransUnion, (800) 916-8800.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

August 10, 2010
Placer DA warns of contracting scams in wake of sentencing

By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

The Placer County District Attorney's office is warning the public to watch out for scam artists when hiring for work around the house.

The California State Licensing Board cautions citizens to only hire state-licensed contractors on projects of $500 or more.

Also, check the license online at www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling (800) 321-2752.

Other CSLB recommendations: get three bids, get references of contractors, review past work of contractors, get project expectations in writing and only sign a contract if understood.

Citizens should also confirm that the contractor has workers' compensation insurance.

Don't pay in cash and don't pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less. Don't make the final payment until satisfied with the job.

clip_image002.jpgplacer.jpgThe hints on hiring comes in the wake of an 87-year-old Auburn woman who was bilked out of $13,500 for a tree removal job on her property.

The contractor, Leron Anthony Stephenson (photo left), 30, of Roseville, cashed six checks, including four blank checks given by the victim, according to a news release from the DA's Office.

Stephenson pleaded guilty in April to theft charges and contracting without a license, the release states. He was given a one-year jail sentence, placed on five years probation and given a suspended prison sentence of five years and four months.

He must pay the back the $13,500 to the family of his victim, the release states.

The elderly woman died before Stephenson changed his plea to guilty in April, according to the release.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

August 6, 2010
Man suspected of area paving scams extradited to California

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A man accused of paving scams in several counties statewide has been extradited to California, where he faces multiple charges of fraud, theft and failure to appear in court.

Police in Duncan, Okla., arrested Richard John Williams, 65, June 28, when they were tipped to his whereabouts, according to a California Contractors State License Board news release. Williams was wanted on three outstanding Lake County warrants.

He pleaded not guilty July 30, and a preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 27 in Lake County Superior Court.

The $750,000 arrest warrant was issued for Williams in March 2009 for attempted elder abuse and petty theft. In April 2009, a no-bail warrant was issued because he failed to appear in court to answer charges of grand theft and contracting without a license, which stemmed from a contractors license board sting. A $10,000 warrant was issued in June 2009 when Williams failed to appear for sentencing on his January 2009 no-contest plea to grand theft.

Williams is suspected of conning consumers in Butte, Colusa, Mendocino, Napa, Sacramento, Sonoma and Yolo counties since 2005, according to the news release. In early 2009, officials say, Williams was operating throughout Lake County and surrounding regions under the business name "Seal Coat Contractor."

During that time, he is accused of attempting to scam for a second time an elderly man suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The man was among the victims in the cases to which Williams had previously pleaded no contest.

On March 19, 2009, the Contractors State License Board and Lake County District Attorney's investigators set up a sting operation and arrested Williams in Kelseyville for bidding $3,500 on a paving job. California law requires a state contractor's license to legally bid on home improvement work valued at $500 or more for combined materials and labor.

Williams fled the state soon after the sting, earning him a spot on the license board's "most wanted" list.

Anyone who thinks they have been scammed by Williams may contact the Contractors State License Board's Intake/Mediation Center at (916) 255-4777.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

July 31, 2010
Sacramento PD warns crooks trying 'grandmother' scam

By Chelsea Phua

cphua@sacbee.com

The man on the phone sounded like her 24-year-old grandson, Sacramento resident Doris McRoberts said.

He told her he and some friends had been involved in a car accident in Ontario, Canada, and needed $3,000 to pay for the cost of repairs.

She would have sent the money, but for a Wells Fargo bank employee who felt something was not quite right and made McRoberts promise that she would consult family members before sending the money.

It's a good thing McRoberts has never broken a promise.

She called her daughter. Her real grandson, as it turned out, was in Berkeley during the time of the alleged accident, and didn't call grandma for money.

"We've seen an increase in these type of scams," Sacramento police spokesman Officer Konrad von Schoech.

Known as the "Grandmother" scam, the con artist poses as a grandchild or a friend of the grandchild and tells grandma or grandpa that he or she is in jail, in trouble or is sick.

"It's usually a tragic situation which the scammer requests to be kept secret," von Schoech said.

If the victim can't share the information, the victim can't verify if it's true, von Schoech said.

"But the best thing to do is verify that the situation that someone is posing to you actually exists," von Schoech said.

And never give personal or financial information over the phone, or agree to meet someone you don't know.

McRoberts also has a few words of wisdom - gained from hindsight. She has two grandsons, but the scammer never specified which of the two he was, and she just assumed he was the older one.

"When they say they are your grandchild, ask, "Which one are you?'" McRoberts said.

July 16, 2010
Suspect in fraud, forgery case arrested in South Lake Tahoe

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

The El Dorado County Sheriff's Department has arrested a man accused of falsely representing himself in various roles to befriend and defraud people.

Sheriff's detectives in South Lake Tahoe were contacted Wednesday by detectives from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, who had information indicating that one of their fugitives was in South Lake Tahoe. John William Rodriguez, 31, was wanted by Arizona authorities on 12 counts of fraud and forgery, according to a sheriff's department news release.

Rodriguez is accused of fraudulently representing himself as a U.S. Marine, an Iraq war veteran, an FBI agent and a detective with the Department of Veteran's Affairs. Officials say he often wore a Marine uniform, gained access to military installations and attended functions such as the Marine Corps Ball.

On Thursday, El Dorado County Sheriff's detectives learned that Rodriguez was living at a residence on Eloise Avenue in South Lake Tahoe. After a daylong investigation and surveillance, Rodriguez was arrested without incident and booked into the South Lake Tahoe jail for a local misdemeanor warrant and a no-bail felony fugitive warrant from the state of Arizona.

Based on their investigation, El Dorado County detectives say they believe Rodriguez engaged in similar fraudulent activities while living in South Lake Tahoe. They said information indicated he befriended numerous people in the area and might have used his scam to defraud his new friends.

Anyone with information about Rodriguez is asked to call Detective Matt Harwood at (530) 573-3015.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

July 15, 2010
Retired area priest rebuffs potential scam call

Bee staff:

Even retired priests can be potential phone scam targets.

The Rev. Bill Dohman called late Wednesday afternoon after he said he received an offer he could refuse -- after some inquiry.

Dohman said a woman called and said he was to be awarded $5,000 for being a "good citizen." Dohman said the woman had his name, phone number and birthdate. She then referred him to another phone number, where a man named "John" said that if Dohman would wire him $235, he could receive the $5,000.

"That's when I said, 'I think this is a scam,' " he said, before hanging up.

Dohman, who said he volunteers at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, said he called The Bee to warn other potential victims not to fall prey to this type of scam.

Click here for scam prevention tips, as provided by the Better Business Bureau, and articles about various scams.

July 2, 2010
3 plead no contest to Butte County contracting scam

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A man characterized by the California's Contractors State License Board as a notorious traveling con artist and two members of his extended family have pleaded no contest in Butte County Superior Court to multiple felony and misdemeanor counts related to a paving scam.

George Joseph Stanley (photo left below) and his cousins George and Kevin Snow (photos centr and right below) entered pleas Tuesday following a yearlong investigation by the Contractors State License Board and the Butte County District Attorney's Office.

The three men were arrested June 24, 2009 at a Chico motel by investigators from the CSLB's State Investigative Fraud Team, along with officers from the California Highway Patrol, Butte County District Attorney's Office and the Chico Police Department. While based at the motel, they are believed to have scammed at least a dozen home and business owners in Butte, Tehama and Glenn counties, according to a CSLB news release.

Officials said the operation uses professional looking equipment as part of a roving scam. They often claim to have left-over material that they will use to fix pot holes, or pave driveway and parking lots for a "good deal." Then they either do more work than initially agreed to or claim they need more material to finish the job and the "bargain rate" ends up being a rip-off, officials said.

In many cases, victims are out thousands of dollars with nothing to show for it but asphalt that they can pick apart with their hands, officials said.

In the Butte County case, Stanley, 30, of Moosup, Conn., pleaded to five felony counts of grand theft by false pretenses and one misdemeanor count of contracting without a license.

George Charles Snow, 20, of Salisbury, Mass., pleaded to four felony counts of grand theft by false pretenses and one misdemeanor count of contracting without a license.

Kevin Patrick Snow Jr., 22, also of Salisbury, Mass., pleaded to two felony counts of grand theft by false pretenses and one misdemeanor count of contracting without a license.

As part of the plea agreement, the three must post a bond for $130,000 by July 8 to guarantee full payment of the $130,000 by their sentencing, scheduled for Oct. 20. Failure to do so will negate the plea agreement and a trial date will be set, according to the news release. They also must pay the storage fees for paving equipment and other vehicles that were impounded as evidence in the case.

Stanley previously pleaded guilty or no contest for his involvement in 2008 paving scams in Tulare, San Joaquin and Yuba counties. He faces deadlines this month to pay $160,500 in restitution including $23,400 by July 12 in Tulare County, $102,000 by July 15 in San Joaquin County and $35,000 by July 16 to Yuba County.

Officials say Stanley and his cousins are believed to have operated throughout the continental United States and Hawaii for the past two years. Victims have identified the men in Colorado, Idaho, Pennsylvania and Washington.

"While these three are big operators, they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to paving scams," CSLB Registrar Steve Sands said in the news release. "Consumers should never rush into a construction job just because they think they're getting a good deal or a special that day."

In California, any paving job or other home improvement project that totals $500 or more in materials and labor must be done by someone with a state license.

To avoid being conned the CSLB recommends that consumers:

- Verify the contractor's license at www.cslb.ca.gov or www.CheckTheLicenseFirst.com or by calling (800) 321-2752.

- Ask to see the contractor's plastic pocket license card, and ask for photo identification to make sure it's the same person.

- Don't rush into repairs, no matter how badly they're needed or just because you'll et a "good deal" that day.

- Don't pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment. Solicitation of a down payment greater than this amount is a violation of the California Business and Professions Code. There is an exception for about two dozen contractors that purchase special bonds for consumer protection, and these exceptions are noted on the CSLB website.

- Get at least three bids, check references and get a written contract.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

George Stanley.jpg George Snow.jpg Kevin Snow.jpg

June 17, 2010
Yolo DA warns of bogus credit-union text messages

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

The Yolo County District Attorney's Office is cautioning residents to be wary of cell-phone text messages purporting to be from the Yolo Federal Credit Union.

In the past few days, residents have received a rash of fake messages, according to a news release from the DA's office.

The message states that there is a problem with "Your YOLO FCU CARD starting with 4661." The message continues, "Your card has been placed on hold and you should call the number provided."

The scam message can be sent to thousands of people by crooks pretending to be legitimate businesses, such as banks and credit card providers, the release states.

The goal is to lure people into providing personal information like bank or credit card numbers. The scammers try to appeal to the victims' emotions so that they will quickly call back and provide sensitive and private information that will be used for future identity theft crimes, according the release.

Numerous Yolo County residents have contacted the DA's office to report the text messages. Several realized the message was a scam just before providing their account numbers.

District Attorney Jeff Reisig advises people never to respond to unsolicited requests for personal information without independently verifying with the bank or credit card company that the requests are legitimate

Yolo Federal Credit Union officials expressed their concern and offered assistance.

"Our members can rest assured the Yolo FCU stands ready to assist its members and that no data or personal information has been compromised," Jenee Rawlings, the credit union's vice president, said in the news release.

To help citizens protect themselves from becoming the victims of scams, the Yolo County District Attorney's Office, along with several other agencies, will hold a Fraud Fair from 2 to 6 p.m. July 8 at West Sacramento City Hall, 1110 West Capitol Ave.

For more information or directions, call Dave Edwards at (530) 666-8416.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

June 17, 2010
Roseville police offer scam prevention tips for seniors

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

Roseville police are reminding seniors to be alert to financial scams targeting older people.

Police say the most common type of elder abuse law enforcement and victim advocates encounter locally is financial abuse, often perpetrated by professional scam artists.

Common scams include:

* Home and roadside repair scams: A scam artist contacts a homeowner or motorist, points out a previously unnoticed, or invented, repair problem and offers to fix the problem at a discounted rate. Recently in Roseville, an older couple were flagged down by another driver who told them their vehicle was smoking, according to a Police Department news release. The man offered to fix their vehicle at a "discounted rate" of $1,250. He and his companions talked the couple out of $40, then gained access to their home, distracted them and stole jewelry.

In a similar version of the scam, phony home repair people contacted older residents on the pretext of fixing the roof or conducting other unsolicited home repairs, then talked themselves into the homes and stole money and other items.

* The grandparent scam: A scam artist calls a senior citizen, often late at night, posing as a grandchild in trouble in another state or a foreign country. The "grandchild" tells the senior that he or she is in jail or has auto repair problems, and asks the grandparent to wire money.

* Foreign lottery or fund transfer scams: People are told they have won a lottery, even though they may never have entered it. They are told that all they have to do to claim millions of dollars is to wire a few thousand dollars to pay the taxes. Or people may receive an e-mail from a someone claiming to be a former government official in Nigeria asking assistance transferring millions of dollars to the United States, and saying they will be well compensated. People are asked to provide their bank account information so the transfer can be made. Police say some Roseville residents not only fell for the scam but were hounded afterward by the same scammers urging them to send even more money.

Once someone has wired money, or given away cash, police say it is almost impossible to arrest the scam artist, who may be in a foreign country, or to recover the stolen money.

Police also note that older people are sometimes reluctant to talk about their financial affairs with their family, or are too embarrassed to tell anyone that they have been duped.

Laura Conrad, victim advocate for the Placer County District Attorney's Office, offers tips to avoid becoming a victim:

* Before having work done to your home, check a contractor's license number online at http://www.cslb.ca.gov/, or by calling (800) 321-2752. Always get multiple bids, get a written contract and never pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less, upfront.

* Never let strangers, unsolicited "inspectors" or solicitors into your home. Create a barrier between yourself and solicitors with a metal screen door or a security door. Before letting inspectors or repairmen in, verify their ID with their employer.

* Get in the habit of discussing transactions or purchases of more than $1,000 with a trusted family member.

* Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision.

* Register you home and cell phones with the "do not call" national registry at (888) 382-1222 or www.donotcall.gov.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

June 10, 2010
Cops from 3 Sacramento area departments looking for gas-pump scammers

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

Three law enforcement agencies are looking for identity thieves after identical credit card skimming machines were discovered inside gasoline pumps in Placer County, Folsom and Sacramento.

device1.jpgThe devices (photo left) were placed in gas pumps and were used to retrieve credit card numbers from victims, according to a Placer County Sheriff's Department news release.

The scanning devices have been found in pumps farthest from the clerk's location and nearest to the street to avoid detection. Law enforcement officials recommend that customers to pay inside the store using their credit cards or cash to avoid this type of fraud.

Detectives suspect more scanning devices are in use. They note that they devices been located at a variety of gas stations, not at one particular company's pumps.

People who think their credit card information may have been stolen at a gas station are advised to file a report with their local law enforcement agency.

The Placer County Sheriff's Department, in conjunction with the Folsom Police Department and the Sacramento County High-tech Crimes Task Force are seeking suspects.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

May 27, 2010
Roseville PD: Man soliciting for charity, but pocketing funds

By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

Roseville police have arrested a Sacramento man on suspicion of fraudulently asking for charitable donations.

Police called to a store parking lot in the 1400 block of Lead Hill Boulevard on Tuesday found a man carrying a clipboard with forms recording charitable donations, purportedly for rosvillescam.JPGthe city-owned George Sim Community Center in Sacramento.

Officers called the Sim Center and found that center operators had not authorized the fundraising effort, nor had they received any funds from such an effort.

Officers believe that Rayshawn Donte Smith (photo left), 23, and others had been fraudulently asking for donations for some time and pocketing the money.

Smith was arrested on suspicion of petty theft with a prior conviction for petty theft and fraudulently soliciting charitable contributions.

Roseville police advise not giving money to solicitors, either by phone or in person. A website recommended by police to research charities is www.charitynavigator.org

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

April 30, 2010
West Sacramento man sentenced for $684,000 theft from state

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A West Sacramento man who used ill-gotten gains to purchase expensive cars and a vacation time share has been sentenced to prison for defrauding the state of California of more than $680,000 while serving as a manager with the California Power Authority.

U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. today sentenced Benjamin Bustamante, 32, to two and a half years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release for wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud the former California Power Authority Demand Reserves Partnership Program.

Bustamante was also ordered to pay $684,216.53 in restitution to the state of California, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

The California Power Authority was established in 2000 in part to assure reliable power at reasonable rates and encourage energy conservation.

It established the Demand Reserves Partnership Program in which commercial and industrial customers, known as "end users", contracted to conserve energy during periods of peak energy use in exchange for payment.

"Aggregators" contracted with the Demand Reserves Partnership to coordinate the conservation contracts with end users, according to the news release.

The aggregators entered into subcontracts with end users, received payment from the Demand Reserves Partnership Program administrator for the end users and remitted payment to the end users.

According to Bustamante's plea agreement, he became the aggregator billing and settlements coordinator for the Demand Reserves Partnership in 2004.

He admitted that in 2006 he created a fictional company, Advanced Energy Response, listing himself as the sole owner. He obtained an IRS Employment Identification Number and opened a bank account for the company.

He then created a fictional state of California contract for the California Power Authority and Advanced Energy Response to serve as an aggregator with the Demand Reserves Partnership.

The news release says Bustamante admitted that he then submitted four fictional invoices, between August and December 2006, to the California Power Authority, requesting a total of $684,216.53 as payment for "energy capacity" supposedly reserved for conservation or actually conserved by end users. Bustamante, however, had not contracted with any end users to provide such capacity, and no end user had provided the capacity.

Bustamante received payment from the state for the fictional service and used approximately $173,000 to purchase two 2006 Porches, a Harley Davidson motorcycle and a Hilton Grand Vacations time share, according to the news release.

The case against Bustamante resulted from an investigation by Internal Revenue Service criminal investigation agents. Assistant U.S. Attorney S. Robert Tice-Raskin prosecuted the case.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

March 26, 2010
Sac puppy owner stopped suspected TDD scam

By Gamaliel Ortiz
gortiz@sacbee.com

Karen Leardini listed a 12-week-old Chihuahua for $300 on the Sacramento Bee classified pages Thursday. By today, she had the attention of two callers, but they weren't the buyers she wanted.

The first caller, who identified herself as a grandmother from Texas, phoned Leardini using TDD or Telecommunications Device for the Deaf. The woman, who said the puppy was for her granddaughter, was willing to pay an additional $100 for doing business and also offered to pay transportation costs.

After the initial call, the unnamed caller insisted on e-mail correspondence, in which she urged Leardini to take the deal and "cash the check right away."

puppy.JPGLeardini's alarm bells went off after that request. She figured that the call and e-mails were part of a scam. If so, the Sacramento resident would have been out the check's amount, the money for transportation, potential bank fees and, of course, her puppy "Tilly Mouse" (photo left).

Katie Robison, media specialist with the Better Business Bureau (Northeast California), identified these red flags that point to the potential scam: the buyer was from out of state and she was willing to pay extra.

"A lot of times, it's better to deal locally," she said. "With these ads you want to say cash only. We've seen it before: People call in and they get a check, cash it and 14 days later they hear that the check is fake."

The TDD system makes locating a potential scammer difficult, Robison said.

In addition, scammers using TDD try to get sellers "to think with their heart strings and not use common sense." That apparently was the case with Leardini who, while sympathetic for the "deaf grandmother," immediately stopped e-mailing the Texan after she insisted on cashing the check quickly.

After reading her last e-mail, Leardini got another call, this time from a "grandfather" using TDD.

Robison's advice: "See if they want to pay cash only. That's not going to bounce."

For more information about concerns about scams, contact the BBB at www.bbb.org or call the office, (916) 443-6843.

Call The Bee's Gamaliel Ortiz, (916) 321-1022.

March 26, 2010
Sac PD: Man arrested in 'big winners' scam

By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

Sacramento police have arrested a man for allegedly using a common scam in which the victim is told they are big winners, according to a Police Department news release.

zachary.JPGJoe Zachary (photo left), 55, of Sacramento was arrested on suspicion of theft from an elderly person and obtaining money under false pretenses, police said.

The release gave this chain of events:

In January a woman received a call from a man telling her she had won money. However, the caller said, she would have to send money for taxes and fees before she could collect her winnings.

The victim complied more than once to the stranger's demands for money to be wired to an account.

Thousands of dollars and a few months later the woman still did not have her winnings. The Police Department was notified.

Zachary was arrested, even though caution it is typically difficult to find suspects in this type of scam, the release states.

The victim was able to provide enough information about the suspect in this case for police to make an arrest, the release states.

Every effort should be made by a citizen to validate information from a caller, police said. And, they caution, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is a scam.

Police ask anyone with information about the scam to call Crime Alert at (916) 443-4357.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

March 23, 2010
Sacramento scam hinges on fake gold bars

By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

Sacramento police are warning that scam artists are peddling fake bars of gold.

Similar crooked deals have surfaced through the years.

The most recent incarnation of the scam occurred Thursday in Natomas when a woman shopping in the 3600 block of Truxel was approached by another woman who spoke to her in Spanish.

The woman told the victim that she was from Mexico and that a sick relative needed help to pay hospital bills. A man then approached and asked the victim if she would like to help by buying a bar of gold at a sale price.

The victim agreed, thinking she would be helping a family in need with bills while also making some money for herself. She withdrew the money from the bank and paid for the phony gilded bar.

Later, after a trip to a jewelry store, she found out the gold bar was a fake.

The suspects have been targeting Hispanic women with the same scam, police said.

The male suspect was described as Hispanic, about 60 years old, 5 feet, 5 inches tall, 130 pounds, wearing a grey-and-beige knitted cap, beige T-shirt and beige jeans. The female suspect was described as Hispanic, 45 years old, 5 feet tall, 165 pounds with shoulder-length brown hair.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Alert at (916) 443-4357.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

March 20, 2010
Sacramento home buyers find squatters in house

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

The soon-to-be owner of a Sacramento house in escrow arrived with a moving van Friday evening to find a family living in the house.

Sacramento police officers were called to the house in the 1800 block of 68th Avenue about 7 p.m. after the person purchasing the property found two adults and two children living there, according to the Police Department's daily activity log.

The occupants told officers that they rented the house several weeks earlier and had given the "landlord" money for rent and a deposit. Officers reported that a representative for the property being sold was on scene and provided documents and a deed of ownership. They said it could not be confirmed whether the renters were victims or participants in a fraudulent scheme.

The occupants left the house voluntarily, police reported.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 773-6866.

February 25, 2010
Rocklin gas pump scam discovered after thousands of dollars are stolen

By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

Rocklin police have confirmed that at least 57 people were scammed when their debit card information was stolen by sophisticated devices hidden in two gas pumps.

Victims have come forward since the devices were discovered Dec. 21 in the pumps at the AM/PM gas station at Sunset Boulevard and Park Drive, said Rocklin police Lt. Lon Milka.

In the past, thieves used devices on the outside of gas pumps to extract PINs and other information from cards. They installed tiny cameras and card skimmers to steal the information and then dip into a victim's account.

This time, devices were installed in gas pumps. Police say they believe the devices intercept information and send the PIN and other debit card information to someone with a laptop.

The criminals then create a card that allows them to withdraw money from the victim's account at ATMs.

Similar scams have been reported in Southern California, San Mateo, Martinez, Vacaville, Citrus Heights and Sacramento, Milka said.

Rocklin police determined that $43,000 was taken from ATM accounts by cards created by the scam. That amount could climb because only two of 16 financial institutions that provided the debit cards to customers who were scammed have reported losses to police.

Rocklin police have obtained photographs of eight people using ATMs with the stolen PINs and homemade cards.

The Orange County District Attorney's office is leading an investigation of thefts similar to the Rocklin incidents. Some of the people captured on camera using the stolen PINs from the Rocklin station appear to match suspects in Southern California, Milka said.

The Rocklin devices came to light after a customer noticed unauthorized withdrawals with his debit card. He went back to the AM/PM and the proprietor of the station found devices inside two pumps.

The proprietor then called Rocklin police. It is unclear how long the devices had been inside the pumps.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

February 25, 2010
Sac PD: Officers block scam over missing dog

By Bee Staff

Sacramento police officers broke up a scam to get money for the return of a missing dog, according to a crime summary released today.

Here's how the attempted scam unfolded, according to police:

A woman's French bulldog escaped from her residence in the 2100 block of Bidwell Way around midnight on Tuesday. The dog wore a collar with ID tag and contact information.

On Wednesday, the victim received a phone call from a female who said she had purchased the dog via a Craigslist ad.

The victim then received a call from a male who claimed to be the original caller's husband. He said he would not return the dog unless the victim refunded the purchase money to him.

The victim arranged to meet with the female at a fast-food restaurant on Freeport Boulevard, but the victim also contacted the police.

A woman arrived at the restaurant with her two children and the dog only to be greeted by officers.

The woman told officers that her boyfriend had fabricated the story about buying the dog through a Craigslist ad so he could get money from the victim.

The woman was not arrested. Officers are looking for the boyfriend.

February 12, 2010
Sacramento area warned: Beware door-to-door solicitors

By Kim Minugh
kminugh@sacbee.com

Responding to an influx of reports from residents concerned about suspicious solicitors, law enforcement officials are warning people to be skeptical of just about anyone at the door.

Except when it comes to U.S. Census workers and maybe cookie-peddling Girl Scouts, legitimate neighborhood salesmen are pretty much a thing of the past, said Sherrie Carhart, a crime prevention specialist for the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

"It's past the time. People shouldn't be going door-to-door soliciting," she said. "It's not something that's accepted these days."

Instead, Carhart said, many of the modern-day "solicitors" likely are prospective burglars, looking for empty homes.

Carhart's warning comes after she's received a number of calls from residents asking about aggressive solicitors pushing everything from cleaning supplies to electronics to assistance for veterans.

Some have been so aggressive that the solicitors have walked into homes uninvited, residents report.

Roger Berkenpas, a community activist in Fair Oaks, said some of his neighbors have talked about a "very smooth, pushy" vacuum salesman who promises Wal-Mart gift cards to anyone who will listen to his sales pitch.

The couple of takers have been disappointed to find the gift cards were worthless, Berkanpas said.

Carhart said sales people are required to carry a copy of the county permit they must obtain for door-to-door solicitation, as well as a copy of their business license.

(A small group of folks are exempt from the required county permit, Carhart said, including non-profits, churches and federal government workers, including those carrying out the U.S. Census.)

But before asking for that paperwork