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Rincon Hill condo scam widens with new charges

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Another character in an elaborate real estate scam involving three units of the luxury One Rincon Hill condominium tower is in custody on suspicion of forging paperwork as part of a money-laundering ring.

Rachelle Languban, 28, was arrested in El Segundo on June 16 on a $1 million warrant and transferred to San Francisco County Jail, where she arrived Sunday. She appeared in court Tuesday and was arraigned on 19 charges.

The list of charges includes conspiracy, grand theft, forgery, perjury and identity theft. Languban is being held on $1 million bail.

She was involved in an alleged conspiracy to fraudulently transfer a woman’s three condominiums in the posh San Francisco residential high-rise, illegally take loans against that property and launder the money, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Her role was as the “lynchpin” in the fraud because she was the notary for the forged deeds of transfer in order to convince city officials the condos were in the hands of a man who was arrested in February.

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Winston Lum, a former San Francisco tennis instructor, has already been charged for allegedly being the front man for fraudulently obtaining ownership of the three condos that are valued at a combined $7.5 million.

In March, investigators raided the San Jose ranch of Jay Chandrakant Shah. The 45-year-old is the owner of a telecommunications company in Silicon Valley. He faces several charges — along with his attorney, Melvin Lee Emerich — related to laundering a $2.2 million loan obtained on the equity of those apartments.

The properties were allegedly put into Lum’s name at the Assessor-Recorder’s Office and the men then quickly took out loans against the properties, drained the properties of their equity and then laundered the proceeds through shell companies, prosecutors said.

Kaushal Niroula, a Nepalese national also known as the “Dark Prince,” is also alleged to be part of the scam. Niroula is currently facing murder charges in connection to the death of a Palm Springs retiree in December 2008.

The case began to unravel when the real owner of the property, Shirley Hwang, became suspicious after a new homebuyer package was sent to her but addressed to Lum. And, she was told that someone was trying to gain access to her property.

Languban is scheduled to be back in court July 6 to join the other defendants.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com



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