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Crime & Justice

9 arrested in mortgage loan scheme to defraud banks out of $2.3 million

Jesus Vega Jr.
Jesus Vega Jr.

This time it was the borrowers ripping off the banks.

Sheriff’s officials announced today they have arrested nine people, most of them Los Angeles County residents, on charges stemming from an alleged mortgage loan scheme that defrauded two banks -- CitiMortgage and MetLife -- out of a total of $2.3 million.

According to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office, Gerard Bueno, 35, of La Habra Heights and Jesus Vega Jr., 28, of Hacienda Heights used front companies to buy six residential properties in the county. “They then obtained loans against the properties in the names of straw buyers, two of which were identity theft victims, and in effect ‘sold’ the properties to themselves at inflated prices that they themselves set,” authorities said.

The alleged fraud occurred between October 2007 and June 2009. All six of the properties later went into default, authorities said.

Authorities said Bueno and Vega drew friends and family members into the scheme by having them act as the straw buyers. Warrants were issued on a variety of charges -- including grand theft, identity theft, forgery and procuring forged instruments -- for Alejandro Valdelamar of Long Beach, Jose Carlos Henriquez of Lynwood, George Kent of La Mirada, Michael Palomares of Compton, Laura Garcia of Paramount, Beatriz Miranda of Hawaiian Gardens and Andres Victoria of New York.

All of the suspects, who range in age from 26 to 66, were arrested without incident yesterday and today. The New Yorker, Victoria, is awaiting extradition to California.

Investigators say the men and their accomplices used stolen identities and bank account information, false employment information and other forged documents in order to pull off the fraud, then split the profits among the group.