Victims lose $12.3M in real estate scams

It was the type of crime that investigators regularly see in real estate fraud cases — Maria Fe Valdez and her sister, Marissa Cruz, allegedly befriended a developmentally disabled man who worked at Goodwill Industries with Cruz.

The man, who was in his 50s, had always lived with his parents, who had recently died. The victim inherited his parents’ home, but prosecutors say the women and Cruz’s husband preyed on his naiveté and convinced him to take out a loan against the house and give the money to them.

Valdez was the single conviction in real estate fraud this year for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, pleading guilty to defrauding the man of more than $250,000 from the sale of his Daly City home. Cruz is fighting the charges and expects to be in court in February. Cruz’s ex-husband Dennis Cruz also pleaded guilty to the crime recently.

Victims of real estate fraud lost $12.3 million in San Francisco between 2008 and 2009 in schemes that targeted the elderly, mentally disabled and Hispanic immigrants.

The District Attorney’s Office had 34 cases involving real estate fraud open in July of this year, according to a report sent to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office, which oversees such investigations.

Prosecutors brought 20 new cases to court in the last fiscal year, with the one conviction of Valdez. About $80,000 in fees was put into a special fund to fight these crimes.

District Attorney Kamala Harris and Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting said they will use legislation sponsored by Supervisors David Campos and Sophie Maxwell and passed in late August to crack down on real estate fraud, especially from predatory loan
consultants.

The ordinance requires a written contract for services offered by mortgage loan modification providers and provides for enforcement with criminal penalties and a private cause of action for aggrieved homeowners.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsKamala HarrisLocalScam

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The J Church train could begin running again later this month on at least part of its surface route. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)
First Muni trains will return to service Dec. 19

Three additional bus routes coming back online in January

Smoking cannabis. (Shutterstock)
Supes ban tobacco smoking in apartments but exempt cannabis

San Francisco banned smoking and vaping of tobacco in apartments Tuesday night,… Continue reading

Dr. Grant Colfax and Mayor London Breed said new restrictions could come this week due to rising COVID-19 cases.<ins> (Examiner screenshot)</ins>
Breed: ‘More restrictive action’ needed to slow spread of COVID-19

San Francisco officials said Tuesday tougher restrictions will soon be imposed to… Continue reading

Many landlords fought the proposal requiring them to register properties, calling it an invasion of privacy. 
Kevin N. Hume/
S.F. Examiner
Housing inventory wins unanimous approval from supervisors

Legislation will require landlords to register properties, report vacancies and rents

Harlan Kelly, head of the SFPUC and husband to City Administrator Naomi Kelly (right), faces federal charges for allegedly trading inside information on a city contract in return for a paid family vacation. (Courtesy photo)
Harlan Kelly, head of SFPUC, charged with fraud in widening Nuru scandal

Kelly accused of engaging in corrupt partnership with permit expediter

Most Read