A Newport Beach man was sentenced last week to seven years in state prison for conspiracy to commit more than $16 million in real estate fraud, according to authorities.
Dinesh Valjeebhai Shah, 65, was sentenced Oct. 17 for conspiring with three family members to commit the fraud by forging documents and purchasing homes using “straw buyers,” reported the Orange County District Attorney’s office in a statement released on Monday.
“A straw buyer is a person who knowingly and willingly allows their credit to be used for the purchase of a property they never intend to control,” the OCDA explained in the press release.
Shah pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to commit a crime, 13 counts of forgery, four counts of identity theft, four counts of recording false and forged instrument and five counts of grand theft, all felonies.
He also received sentencing enhancements for allegations for loss over $100,000, property damage over $1.3 million, and aggravated white collar crime over $500,000.
Shah was also ordered to pay $12,800 in restitution.
In June, he was convicted of filing a false tax return and two counts of failure to file any return or supply any information with intent to evade any tax. For that charge, he was sentenced to two years in state prison.
His co-defendants include his sister Suniti Shah, 53, and mother, Sushama Devi Lohia, 76, also a Newport Beach resident, and another family member, Supriti Soni, 54.
With several of the same charges, Suniti Shah and Sushama Devi Lohia were both sentenced to eight years in state prison and Supriti Soni received 10 years.
All four used their businesses in Santa Ana and Tustin and “worked together to secure loans for “straw buyers” using forged and false documents,” according to the OCDA.
The Shahs owned and operated four businesses in Tustin: New Age Realty, First Property Escrow, City First Realty, and Associates Investments Group.
Soni owned and operated Vason Development in Santa Ana, a business that processed home loan applications.
Lohia, a licensed real estate agent, worked out of both offices.
They recruited straw buyers through friends, family and their employees between April 2006 and March 2008, the district attorney’s office states.
They used the straw buyers credit to obtain more than 15 fraudulent loans on real estate properties in Orange County between June 2006 and October 2009, all of which were approved by Washington Mutual Bank.
“The defendants fabricated loan applications to reflect significantly higher incomes for the straw buyers, supplied altered bank statements to reflect the higher incomes, falsified employer information on loan documents, and forged the names and signatures of straw buyers on various deeds and loan documents,” the OCDA statement explains.
Between July 2008 and May 2009, Lohia and the Shahs filed false and forged documents with the Orange County Clerk-Recorder’s Office to falsely show property transfers.
In total, the defendants committed over $16 million in fraud.