9 year fraud battle has a happy ending.

Over the years I’ve written a lot about real estate fraud. Real estate fraud had only just come to our region in a big way back in 2005/2005 and Realtors® were trying to grapple with this new issue. Problem was, nobody else thought it was an issue. Banks didn’t care, law enforcement wasn’t interested, our DA, the Dept. of Real Estate, FBI – you name it, nobody cared.

And over the years I’ve written a lot about the Stonewood Case – a house kiting scheme with some investment undertones. By the time the law finally got on the case, the perp’s were indicted for $143 MILLION dollars. Yeah, not exactly chump change. It really jump started our foreclosure market back in 2006-2007 as these places started to dump back onto the market in ever increasing numbers.

It’s been a 9 year effort led by local Realtors®, some tenacious reporters, our board attorney and a bunch of victims who weren’t afraid to stand up.

Yesterday the last two perp’s were found guilty. Hendrix Montecastro and his mother Helen Padrino. There were 9 people indicted, the others were so guilty they all plead guilty. These two decided to test it in court and act as their own counsel. Yeah, that worked well. So instead of the few or tens of years their cohorts were dealt, Padrino is up for 30+ and Hendrix is down for 100.

All I can say is, he looks a lot better in his orange jumpsuit than he did in the 3 piece Armani’s he used to sport when he’d come into the office to try to intimidate us. Sentencing comes in a couple weeks.

You can read some of the history and testimony here:


Stonewood Financial Perps Finally Charged.


If I sound ecstatic it’s because the biggest fraudsters in our area have finally been charged! These three, Montecastro, Duncan and McLeod started their mortgage fraud scheme in Murrieta in 2004. Our association and our chief counsel started documenting the problem late that year. We took it to the District Attorney, the FBI, the Dept. of Real Estate, the Attorney General, local law enforcement, lenders, etc. – and nobody NOBODY would give us the time of day.

This scam was the incentive for our Association (SRCAR) to join our neighboring Association (IVAR) in a joint fraud task force with the Giardinelli Law Group. This effort has now expanded to include Ventura County, who had started their own, and Orange and San Diego County associations. We are trying to get our state association to at least give us a forum to educate other Realtors, lenders and the public about real estate fraud.

As Attorney Richard Ackerman puts it – ‘earlier intervention would have prevented a lot of damage to both investors and the community.’ These people operated unimpeded for at least three years, involving hundreds of homes throughout our valley. This spawned numerous copycats who saw that there was  money to be made and no apparent consequences.

Their early scheme involved the over-bidding by $50,000 – $100,000 on homes, bringing in fraudulent appraisals, taking the excess at COE and then sticking the unwary buyers with the result. Often they preyed on the unsophisticated and found a trusting audience in their fellow Filipino community. Many Buyers purchased multiple homes with the understanding the Stonewood would help them make the over-payments until they could refinance in the rising market. Yeah, like that actually happened.

These severely overburdened homes started the collapse in our community in late 2006 yet the fraud continued. As the economy headed south virtually every one of the hundreds of homes they had caused to be purchased went into foreclosure. As they had focused on certain neighborhoods,it was not unusual to see 8 out of 10 homes on a single street vacant and blighted as a result.

5 years later, fraud is still with us and has morphed into other avenues to follow the trail of opportunity. But at long last there may be justice for these early perpetrators who played a large role in the early demise of our market.

Here’s to justice finally served. Helooooo Bubba !

For the complete article, please go to: Charges Filed in Major Fraud Case. pe.com

Criminal charges have been filed against James B. Duncan, Hendrix Moreno Montecastro and Maurice McLeod, three Riverside County businessmen who allegedly orchestrated a major securities and mortgage fraud that drove many investors to financial ruin in California and Arizona.

The defendants allegedly created a complex network of companies, the chief of which were Pacific Wealth Management (which has no relationship to the company of the same name in San Diego), Stonewood Consulting and Total Return Fund.

He said while the District Attorney’s complaint concentrates on securities fraud, the U.S. Attorney will file a separate criminal complaint accusing the defendants of mortgage fraud.

Richard Ackerman, an attorney representing 85 alleged victims in a civil lawsuit against the defendants, said “It’s about time” the DA and U.S. Attorney made the move.

“What my clients wanted from day one is exactly what’s happening today. They wanted to create enough pressure on law enforcement so these people would be prosecuted and put away for a long time for destroying people’s lives,” Ackerman said.

The defendants allegedly persuaded investors to buy multiple homes and then broke their promise to continue paying the mortgage payments and allowed the properties to go to foreclosure. Ackerman contends that this scenario involved at least 250 houses in southwest Riverside County and contributed t the tremendous loss of home values in the region.

Ackerman said he believes earlier intervention would have prevented a lot of the damage to both investors and the larger community.