Fraud team officers from the Sheriff's Department arrested a trio of area residents Friday after they were connected to an elaborate real estate fraud scheme involving a $3.5 million home in La Cañada Flintridge, according to a release from authorities.
The suspects were ID'd as Saliya “Sal” DeSilva, 49, of Northridge, Nora Yefima, 50, of Santa Clarita and Vahe Hayrapetian, 45, of Burbank. All three were indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on charges of wire and bank fraud and then arrested at their homes later in the week.
Authorities said the scheme can be tracked back to July of 2009, when the owner of a Gould Avenue home in La Cañada Flintridge defaulted on $3.5 million in loans which were secured by the property. Bank of America then foreclosed on the property and took possession of it.
In February of 2010, authorities said DeSilva allegedly contacted Bank of America and posed as the homeowner, giving the bank counterfeit documents and eventually leading the bank to believe the foreclosure was erroneous. This led Bank of America to halt the foreclosure, which when allowed DeSilva to put the property back on the market without the previous homeowner knowing anything about it.
DeSilva, who is a licensed real estate salesperson, then short-sold the home in August of 2011 after a title insurance company was given false information regarding the home's condition of the property and was also given counterfeit documents, including a fake Bank of America Short Sale Approval Letter stating that Bank of America had approved the sale at a $250,000 price tag, authorities said.
The buyer of the home then used Hayrapetian, a loan broker, to get a $1.5 million loan for the “purchase,” and the funds were then wire-transferred by the lender to Oshana Escrow in Encino. Hayrapetian allegedly submitted fake documents to the lender order to secure the $1.5 million loan.
Yefima, the owner of the Encino escrow company, is suspected of sending false documents and wire transferring a small portion of the loan funds to the title insurance company, and then disbursed the rest of the funds, an amount exceeding $1 million, to several other parties who had nothing to do with the transaction, according to a statement from the Sheriff's Department.
The buyer of the property then defaulted on the loan which was allegedly fraudulently obtained by Hayrapetian, and since Bank of America never approved the short sale and continues to assert the validity of their $3.5 million in liens, there is insufficient equity in the property to compensate the subsequent lender for their $1.5 million loss.
Fidelity National Title Company insured the lender and may have to pay the difference, the statement said.
The investigation was conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Real Estate Fraud Team in conjunction with the FBI.