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Elaborate real estate fraud scheme

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Six people were arrested Thursday on suspicion of defrauding a couple while they were trying to sell a duplex in Palm Desert, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s office.

An investigator gave a summary of the case in a declaration filed in support of an arrest warrant. It lays out a tangled scheme involving half a dozen people, who used fraudulent pay stubs, bank statements, escrow files, tax forms and forged signatures to cost a couple $219,000 over five years — even after they’d sold the duplex in question. The DA’s office called it an “elaborate scheme.”

In the declaration, the investigator writes that the couple defaulted on their Palm Desert property in 2008. They hired real estate agent Maria Rojas to sell the property just before Christmas. Rojas allegedly charged the couple $1,100 to process paperwork and forged the couples’ signatures at least five times before the short sale could proceed.

A year-and-a-half later, mortgage broker Cesar Ramirez told the couple he had found a buyer — Michael Garcia. Ramirez and a colleague, Oliver Salazar, processed Garcia’s loan application. Investigators allege that it included forged paychecks and W-2 tax forms that said Garcia worked at a real Palm Desert floral shop, but the shop’s owners told officials they’d never heard his name.

Rojas, Ramirez, Garcia and Salazar were all arrested Thursday on suspicion of crimes including grand theft, mortgage fraud and forgery….

MORE: Six arrested in ‘elaborate’ real estate fraud scheme