Stewart Title sued for fraud.
by Pat Flannery
Up and down the State of California lenders and title
companies have been conspiring with developers to bilk
people out of hundreds of millions of dollars. This
lawsuit recently filed in San Luis Obispo tells a
story that is happening all over California. I have
investigated several situations that parallel almost
exactly what happened in San Luis Obispo.
Professionals within the title and escrow
community used their positions
to commit unrestrained fraud. The damage to the real
estate system, particularly to the concept of title
insurance, will take years to reverse. Public confidence
in the integrity of title insurance, escrow and loan
origination may be irreversibly damaged.
Imagine being the holder of a second deed of trust on a
property and being asked, as part of a refinance escrow
by the property owner, to put a reconveyance (a release
of your lien) into escrow in the certain knowledge of
receiving a payoff check when escrow closes. Imagine
your shock when you discover that the title/escrow
company stole your money by clearing title for a new
loan and pocketing your payoff.
Imagine your shock when you report this crime to your
local District Attorney only to receive a letter telling
you that they were too busy and do not have the
resources to investigate. Your life savings is gone and
you have no money for private attorneys. That is just
one example of some true-life tragedies I have recently
documented from the Bay Area to San Diego.
The mainstream media must stop writing "shaggy dog"
stories about the
"straw buyers" involved in McConville's scams, while
ignoring the real crooks, the developers, the lenders
and the title companies who took the money and still
have it, while the straw buyers and many others are left
with ruined lives. The real story is how the developers,
the banks and the title companies conspired together to
commit massive fraud.
Most of the McConville straw buyers I talked to, and I
talked to quite a few, had no real estate knowledge
whatsoever and had no idea what they were getting into.
They genuinely thought they were co-investors. They were
reinforced in that belief by the fact that Jim
McConville put 20% down on each loan and actually paid
that money into escrow, or at least according to the
escrow companies' settlement statements. I saw several
of these buyers' settlement statements, all of which
were only received a year after closing and only under
The first time many buyers saw their Deeds of Trust,
with owner occupancy clauses, was when I provided them
with copies from the County Recorder. They never saw
their final loan documents because they were signed "on
their behalf" by a McConville employee. Yet the lenders
and the title companies accepted all those legal
documents without question. It is hard to believe that
these professionals did not know what was going on. It
is hard to believe they were not complicit.
There is an old saying in real estate: to form the ideal
real estate partnership you put together somebody with
money and somebody with experience. But when the deal is
done and the dust settles, the partner with the
experience usually has the money and the one with the
money usually has the experience. Jim McConville's
co-investors now have the experience while his
co-conspirators, the developers, lenders and title
companies have the money. This cannot stand. Society
must react. Both law enforcement and the media must come
to the public's rescue.
Will the School Board help build "Moores Folly" - an
East Village School/Library? 06/22/09
by Pat Flannery
Why locate a "Central Library" in this part of town?
Because John Moores wants to enhance the attractiveness
of the East Village to which he has been given sole
development rights by the City of San Diego. Moores
agreed to Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) to get his
Ballpark built, now the labor unions are pushing to give
his development district a Library.
Even the union-controlled School Board
has offered to chip in $20 million of its precious
Prop-S bond money to help build this "Moores Folly". Its
over-compliant legal counsel wrote a convoluted,
contradictory legal opinion purporting to justify the
pre-payment of 40 years rent on two upper floors for an
un-wanted Charter School. This so-called pre-paid rent
is nothing more than a cash gift to Moores and is
totally inconsistent with any school needs. It is a
repeat of the infamous Ballpark deal, a diversion of
public money for private use - but with jobs for union
What makes it even worse is that the School Board is
behaving like it has the $20 million sitting in its bank
account. In its rush to serve a union-friendly
developer, it wants to borrow $20 million using "zero
coupon" bond financing, the most expensive form of
"Zero coupon" means that a bond issuer pays no interest
over a period of years with principle and accrued
interest-on-interest payable at the end. Most Prop-S
bond borrowing will be done using this method. The
School District has no other choice because the prior
Prop MM bonds will not be paid off until 2029 and there
are legal limits on annual bond servicing payments in
the form of a maximum percentage of assessed valuation
(AV). In the case of Prop MM it is $66.67 per $100,000
AV and $60.00 per $100,000 AV for Prop-S.
Thus, Prop MM bond servicing crowds out Prop-S bond
servicing until 2029. Even then, because of the annual
servicing cap, it is heavily deferred until 2044. The
final payment in
year is almost a half billion dollars, mainly
interest-on-interest. It may be much worse because
this payment schedule is predicated on assessed
going up by 5% year-on-year, the reverse of what we
know is happening. The truth is that Prop-S bonds are
little better than junk bonds, a very poor way to
finance school repair, let alone a "Moores Folly"
Borrowing $20 million in these circumstances is like an
indulgent parent, who is broke, putting $20,000 on a
credit card at 20% in order to buy a wastrel son a
sports car he will surely wreck his first night out on
the town. If the School Board approves this folly today,
it will rank as one of the worst examples of corrupt
government in San Diego's sorry history.
PLA Money talks - the environment walks.
by Pat Flannery
There are only two Republicans on the San Diego City
Council, Kevin Faulconer and Carl DeMaio, the other six
are all Democrats. That should suggest a definite
leftward tilt, a strong labor and environmental bias. We
might even expect a move towards increased local taxes.
But that is not at all what we are seeing. The left in
San Diego consists of gay rights and project labor
agreements (PLAs). The concept of social justice does
not exist. Socialism is as much an anathema to the left
as it is to the right. Gay rights have nothing to do
with economic justice and project labor agreements are
the antithesis to social leveling.
Organized labor in San Diego is primarily about
collecting union dues and political power.
PLAs are ugly partnerships between union bosses and
corporations to "stabilize" the workforce.
The union bosses do not need to recruit the old fashioned
way, their dues are guaranteed by the corporations.
Thus the workers right to strike is bargained away for
the stabilization of union dues.
Without the right to strike, a worker is
little more than a slave. In modern society, they are
Labor leaders routinely answer such charges by asserting
that PLAs benefit all workers, that every worker
benefits from the good fortune of a few. I struggle to
understand that logic. The truth is that it splits the
labor force into the "haves" and "have-nots". Old
fashioned labor leaders were social levelers not social
elitists. PLAs are the opposite to leveling.
It is widely believed that labor's insistence on a PLA
drove away Gaylord from Chula Vista. If Gaylord was
allowed free access to the job market, would Chula Vista
be better off today? The hard fact is that jobs are the
life blood of any economy. A prime waterfront site lies
silent and a city stagnates because union dues were not
guaranteed by a developer.
This whole question came into sharp focus this week with
the City's appointment of a little known attorney from
the lobbyist community to the Port District, Ms. Lee
Burdick. What happened has been the subject of much
speculation. I believe it reveals the primacy of PLAs
Only three of the six Democratic Councilmembers, Frye,
Gloria and Lightner voted for the obvious Port choice,
Diane Takvorian, executive director of the Environmental
Health Coalition, from an environmental and labor point
of view. Many and lame were the excuses given by Hueso,
Young and Emerald for voting in a lobbyist.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out what happened.
Steve Cushman, Port Commissioner and master of
waterfront PLA negotiations, told Ben Hueso (Council
President) and Lorena Gonzales (Labor Council President)
that Takvorian would not be acceptable to Port employers
in negotiating PLAs. Cushman advised Hueso and Gonzales
to find somebody more "acceptable". Takvorian bears the
scars of too many fights with Port business interests on
behalf of children's health.
So what does a Council President do in a situation like
that? Why, he calls in the lobbyists, of course. They
know who is "acceptable" and who is not. Lobbyist Adrian
Kwiatkowski, who works for Jack Monger and represents
various developers and corporate aviation interests,
stepped up to the plate. He and Monger "suggested"
fellow lobbyist Lee Burdick, Jimsair former general
counsel for government affairs and now working for the
politically well-connected law firm of
Higgs Fletcher & Mack.
So, Diane Takvorian gets blindsided by her politician
and union "friends" who, like good capitalists, put
union dues (profits) before the environment. Cushman
gave them good advice: if you want PLAs, dump Takvorian.
So the political posturing began.
Politicians will agree to anything if you give them
cover. The Chiefs of Staff and the lobbyists went to
work writing the script for Monday's Council meeting. It
was like watching professional wrestling. And the media
printed it all, like a professional wrestling announcer.
Lorena was like the Godfather at a christening, loudly
protesting her loyalty to Takvorian, while her soldiers
put five bullets into Takvorian's
Environmental Health Coalition. Hueso, Young and
Emerald's bullets were the unkindest cuts of all. Now if
you want something from the Port Commission, go talk to
Kwiatkowski and Monger. Money talks and the environment
The media are contributing to mortgage fraud.
by Pat Flannery
Check Clears". I was amazed to read that piece of
news in the Voice of San Diego yesterday, so I
made a few phone calls to see if it was true. It is not.
The Voice wrongly reported that James McConville
wrote a check to Najarian Loans Inc., to settle this
The Voice quoted Edward F. Cullen, attorney for
two of the defendants,
Jack Thomas and Mariam Rasuli, as follows:
"I'm pleasantly surprised" the
check came through, Cullen said. "[Najarian] received
money from Mr. McConville and that money was accepted as
a release of Mr. McConville and the defendants who were
named in the lawsuit."
I spoke to Mr. Cullen and he denied having told the
Voice that anybody had received money from
McConville. He told me that all he knew was that the
case had been dismissed. I checked with the Superior
Court of California, Contra Costa County and got
confirmation that the case had indeed been dismissed
without prejudice on May 14, 2009.
I then called David E. Harris attorney for the
Najarian Loans Inc. He denied having told anybody that
Najarian had ever received a check from McConville, let
alone waited for it to clear. I told Harris that a Bay
Area investor, who has a judgment against McConville,
told me that he intended to subpoena the check. That
creditor had failed to discover any bank account
controlled by McConville. Yet here was the Voice
reporting the existence of a McConville check therefore
a bank account.
Attorney Harris assured me that the Bay Area creditor
would be wasting his money subpoenaing any alleged
check. I told him that I took that to mean that a
McConville check never existed let alone cleared. He did
not disavow me of that belief and told me that that was
the best he could do within the confines of
attorney-client privilege. His frankness probably saved
the investor a lot of futile attorney's fees as I passed
that information on to him.
Why in the world would the Voice of San Diego
report such a sensitive matter as a McConville
settlement check as fact when one clearly never existed?
The Voice's named sources, the above attorneys,
both completely deny its story.
Here are some real facts about the
300-unit condo project in the Kern County town of Ridgecrest,
the plaintiff Najarian Loans Inc. made
the loans that were the subject of the lawsuit. The condo complex
is called La Mirada.
On December 19, 2003 Ayyad signed a
transferring ownership of these 300 units to
1402 Alta Vista Partners LLC. He did not pay any
transfer tax on the Deed, which means that he owned the
LLC or at least part of it. Jeff Greene (see my
blog dated 4/27/09) was also an
owner and a manager of that corporation. Therefore Ayyad
and Greene were partners in the La Mirage condos.
NL Inc., formerly Najarian Loans Inc., the company
McConville is supposed to have settled up with. It is
owned by a real estate broker named Tracey Lee Hirt,
formerly Tracey Lee Najarian. Here is her personal real
license and here is her NL Inc.
license. She seems to
have quite a lot of agents working for her. She even has
two branches here in San Diego, one at 3636 Nobel Drive,
Suite 410, CA 92122 and another at 12275 El Camino Real,
Suite 130, CA 92130.
NL Inc. was
sued by Suntrust Mortgage Inc. for negligence and
misrepresentation in selling
18 fraudulent loans to Suntrust. They were all to
McConville straw buyers. NL Inc. created all 18 as
owner-occupier loans, despite the fact that most of
these straw buyers bought multiple units, which is fraud
on its face. Here are some examples:
NL Inc. tried to blame its misrepresentation on the
straw borrowers. It pleaded that it didn't know for
example that Angela Spangler had bought more than one
unit, when NL Inc. was the lender on all three. So it
had to pretend to go after McConville and the straw
The American legal system has degenerated into giving
color of law to illegal acts. First everybody sues
everybody to put the "settlement" under a court mantle.
Suncrest settled with NL Inc. and NL settled with
McConville. The lawyers got paid and the Voice of San
Diego got a story. The last thing lenders Suncrust
and NL wanted was the whole affair aired in open court.
The lawsuit was purely for show. Unfortunately the
Voice, eager for a story, lent it credibility.
No wonder developers/investors like William Ayyad, Ralph
Giannella, Jeff Greene and Chris Lafornara are laughing
at how easy the whole thing is. They have no fear of
being exposed in the media, at least not in San Diego.
Now rolling in cash, they are buying foreclosure
properties that were the "security" for "securitized"
loan bundles during the boom years. Here is such a
property in San Diego. It was recently
bought by the Ayadd family for $142,000 and put back
on the market for
The seller was a "pass-through" (securitized bundle)
created by Countrywide under an exotic name starting
with CWALT, which stands for Countrywide Alternative
Loan Trust. There are $billions in such CWALT bundles
yet to come on the market, a veritable treasure trove
for the Ayyads, the Greene's, the Giannellas and the
Lafornaras, loaded down with cash from all their
inflated sales to straw buyers.
The listing agent, Guy Kennedy, is an old friend of the
Ayadd family. He notarized William Ayadd's La Mirada
to Jeff Greene in 2003.
They are all getting away with it because media
"investigators" like the Voice of San Diego are
straining to give an air of normality to some very
illegal acts. Readers of the Voice are being told
that not only was there a "check in the mail" but it has
now cleared the bank. To cover up fraud you simply need
to file a lawsuit, settle it under the jurisdiction of
the court, call the media who will obligingly report
whatever you tell them, while you plead attorney-client
If there is any hope of reestablishing trust in the
American financial system,
the media must be willing to expose fraud perpetrators, instead
of tailoring the truth to make a good "news" story.
otherwise known as fraud. 05/26/09
by Pat Flannery
China and Russia wanted a
piece of the American capitalist dream - ordinary
American people lending their life savings to neighbors
to build their American dream home through a Jimmy
Stewart-style small town American bank.
But we are not in "Bedford
Falls" anymore. The Chinese and Russians can no
longer invest in small town banks, so Wall Street took
mortgages, packaged them up in large bundles and sold
them to gullible Chinese and Russian investors as true
American "mortgage-backed securities" (MBS).
These foreign investors trusted Wall Street and got
taken to the cleaners. Now Obama is trying to bail the
whole thing out. Maybe he is afraid that the Chinese and
Russians will retaliate if he does not. At the very
least, they will never trust Wall Street again.
Creating MBSs, known as "securitization", used to be the
sole privilege of government-backed agencies like FNMA
(Fannie Mae). Now anybody can do it. That is at the
heart of the global financial meltdown. It is not that
our American banks became deregulated, they simply chose
to become unregulated brokers for foreign investors and
created all kinds of unregulated investment instruments
They had discovered that every time a mortgage is
wrapped or bundled new money is created.
The American Government
thus lost control of the money supply.
The printing of American
money had been effectively privatized. Previously only
regulated banks could create money by making regulated
loans. It was called fractional-reserve banking.
Michael Strauss, former Chairman and CEO of American
Home Mortgage (AHM),
now in bankruptcy, typifies the rogue loan
originators who took advantage of all that foreign
money. Chris Lafornara of Kearny Mesa Townhomes typifies
the many developers/sellers who were the main recipients
of that easy money. Lafornara was able to sell his
condos for three times their normal value and pocket the
Here's how it worked. A straw buyer aggregator, like
James McConville of Fremont in the Bay Area, agreed to
provide Lafornara with all the straw buyers he would
need. In the case of Kearny Mesa Townhomes there were 42
units so Lafornara would need 42 straw buyers.
Veronica Padilla is a good example. On November 29, 2006
Lafornara signed her up, a married woman with an address
in Fremont, for the purchase of four of his units. He
sold her three 2 bedroom, 900 square feet units (numbers
13, 25 and 26) for $355,000 each and one 1 bedroom, 644
square feet unit (number 35) for $305,000.
All the deals were signed and notarized on the same day.
All her loans were owner-occupier i.e. all four units
were to be her "primary residence", even though she
lived with her husband in northern California. AHM
funded her four purchase loans of $319,500 each, a first
of $248,500 and a second of $71,000 on each unit. They
didn't even bother to read the paperwork - they made a
loan of $319,500 on the 644 square feet unit that sold
Meanwhile Lafornara had "corporate" cover.
He appointed McConville's daughter Nicole, as a
"manager" of his corporation,
Kearny Mesa Townhomes. Here are the two documents he
filed at the California Secretary of State: the
original 2005 filing and the
2006 change adding Nicole McConville as a manager.
She was added in addition to the two
original managers, Chris Lafornara and David Hurwitz.
There was no change of ownership of the corporation.
To underline that fact, Lafornara signed a "double-flip"
of the units, from the corporation to himself and back
again, on November 30, 2006, the day after
the Secretary of State filing adding Nicole. Nicole
started signing grant deeds on behalf of the corporation
on the very day of the Secretary of State filing,
November 29, 2006. Here is her
grant deed for unit number 25 to Veronica Padilla.
The double-flip of the units was to create false
comparables for subsequent appraisals. The units were
worth nowhere near $355,000 each. Unit number 16, a
studio with 388 square feet was sold to Adrianus
Schabbing, a McConville straw buyer with an address in
Hayward, for $305,000 and
a loan for $244,000 from WAMU on October 10, 2007.
Nicole's father, Jim, signed the
grant deed himself, even though he was never a
registered officer of the corporation.
WAMU now purportedly owns the unit through foreclosure.
Was Schabbing's mortgage valid? Did he get proper title
from Jim? The only persons authorized to sign grant
deeds for Kearny Mesa Townhomes were Chris Lafornara, David
Hurwitz and Nicole McConville. If otherwise the
Secretary of State's records mean nothing.
To sum up, developer Lafornara's corporation raked in
approximately $11 million through fraudulent loans on
the 42 units he had converted to condos. He had already
$3,450,000 in a refinance deal with La Jolla Bank on
September 12, 2006. That probably covered all his
investment to that date. The balance of $7,555,000 could
then be shared with those who helped in the scheme. The
losses however, will be shared, not by the banks that
originated the loans, but by the foreign investors who
purchased the Wall Street-bundled MBSs in good faith.
As a final demonstration of financial ingenuity,
bankrupt AHM is now
American Home Loan Servicing Inc. It is making
millions acting as trustee in the foreclosure of
its own bad loans. Two of these foreclosed
units in Kearny Mesa Townhomes are now in the San Diego
MLS. You guessed it: they are two of Veronica Padilla's
owner-occupied units, numbers
25. We are now entering phase two of this
Our Lady of Peace will
sue the City of San Diego.
by Pat Flannery
These are the most beautiful words in the English
"Congress shall make no law respecting
an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or
of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress
They are of course the First Amendment to the U.S.
But Congress did make such a law. And in my Blog
March 4, 2009 I predicted that Our Lady of Peace
Academy (OLP) would sue the City under
the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(RLUIPA), passed by
the U.S. Congress on July 27, 2000. Now OLP has
announced it is going to do so. The Law says in relevant
"No government shall impose or
implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes
a substantial burden on the religious
exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or
institution, unless the government can demonstrate that
imposition of the burden on that person, assembly or
(a) is in furtherance of a
compelling governmental interest; and
(b) is the least restrictive
means of furthering that compelling governmental
This Law puts a religious
institution in a more favorable position than a
non-religious institution, despite the fact that any
attempt to grant favors to any religious institution is
a breach of the U.S. Constitution, just as any attempt
to impair the exercise of any religion is a breach.
Now look at the
OLP web site. The Board has written a letter to its
"Friends", making it clear that (after careful prayer
and reflection no doubt) its preferred course is to sue the City for religious discrimination,
over a land use decision. The letter reads in part:
"Under the federal Religious Land Use and
Institionalized (sic) Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA),
religious institutions are protected from religious
unnecessary burdens on religious expression
imposed by local government zoning requirements. Our
modernization plan is necessary to further the mission
of the school. We believe that the City’s decision
unfairly discriminates against our Catholic
identity; the denial of the implementation of
our modernization plan places a substantial, if not
impossible, burden on us to carry out our mission.
Because of this, we believe that challenging the
City’s decision under this statute is our best
alternative. While we don’t relish the idea of
litigation, we must be true to our call to provide our
students with the best education possible."
I wouldn't want to be the City attorney defending
"We would appreciate your prayerful
remembrance with the offering of a Hail Mary each
day until this matter is resolved .....We know that her
intercessions are dear to the heart of her Son, Our
Lord Jesus Christ." I think City Attorney Jan
Goldsmith might want to get outside counsel on this one
(several of them believe they too can walk on water).
The idea that the Church is not subject to civic or
secular law goes back to the apocryphal
Donation of Constantine. Here is a beautiful
painting from the workshop of Raphael, that still hangs
in the Vatican, depicting Roman Emperor Constantine
kneeling before the Pope and "donating" to him the city
of Rome and all of Western Europe.
The Board of OLP obviously still
believes that any attempt by any City Government
anywhere to regulate any Church land is an infringement
of the Church's centuries-old land privileges. The
"Friends'" Hail Marys will no doubt strongly press that
case before the Highest Court there is.
Condo developer Jeff Greene buys his own "credit default
by Pat Flannery
Nobody knew better than Los Angeles apartment mogul Jeff
Greene when the real estate bubble would burst. He was
one of the main architects of the fraudulent loans that
inflated real estate prices. Then he bet that the whole
edifice would come tumbling down and made a billion
dollars on that bet. He had discovered "credit
default swaps" (CDS). Watch him explain to a CNBC
reporter how his only regret is not doing "twice as
The star-struck reporter obviously did
not know about Greene's scam of creating bad loans and
then buying the financial instrument (CDS) that bet on
them not defaulting. Every CDS traded was grossly
underpriced because the market did not know how bad the
underlying loans really were. But Greene knew. He was
therefore able to buy low (before the markets realized
the risk) and sell high (after the markets realized the
risk) the oldest trick in the book.
Greene came from a Worcester Mass working-class Jewish
family. He paid his way through Harvard Business School
as a Boston slum landlord. He moved to Los Angeles and
continued his slum landlord business in the underbelly
of Hollywood. He befriended people like Hugh Hefner,
Oliver Stone and
Tyson, who was
best man at his wedding, before which he lived with
Heidi Fleiss, the colorful "Hollywood Madam".
He specialized in rundown, rat-infested apartment
buildings in sought-after neighborhoods of Los Angeles
and branched out from there. Somewhere in that shadowy
world he teamed up with Jim McConville and perfected the
"straw-buyer condo-conversion" loan. The beauty of
Greene's scheme was that he could then buy and sell the
credit default swaps (CDS) that "insured" the very
fraudulent loans he created.
Wall Street traders had a traditional believe that
bundled real estate loans were a safe investment, that
bundling spread the risk. But Jeff knew that some
bundles were now 100% fraudulent, the 300 hundred loans
on his La Mirage condo complex for example. He knew that
CDSs were a financial time bomb. He was one of those who
had set the clock ticking.
With this knowledge all he had to do to make a billion
dollars was to purchase enough CDSs at their low-low
2006 price and wait for that price to skyrocket around
2008 when the market would realize the enormity of the
risk these CDSs had been insuring. That is why he and
others were hungry for cash in 2006. They wanted to buy
these CDSs while they were still cheap.
It was formerly called "The Willows". Jeff Greene bought
the complex and changed its name to "La Mirage"
(appropriately named) on October 12, 2004. He took title
using a company he had formed on June 14, 2000, named
1402 Alta Vista Partners LLC. Here is the
CC&Rs document, signed
Greene personally and recorded on January 18, 2005
by a company named Millennium Holdings Inc. at 1800 N.
Argyle Ave., Los Angeles, the address given on Greene's
(now expired) real estate broker's
Greene started selling his La Mirage condos on July 14,
2006. His first buyer was a close associate of Jim
Jack Thomas. He is the registered straw owner of
McConville's much-used address at 37968 Canyon Heights
Drive, Fremont, Ca 94536.
Here is that first
Grant Deed, signed by Greene himself. The purchase
price was $165,000. Here is the
Trust Deed for Thomas's mortgage with New Century
Mortgage for $148,500. It was notarized by another key
member of the McConville team,
Agnes Kantere. The scam was on.
Greene had already sold 189 of these condos before
deeded the remaining 111 to McConville on August 15,
2006. Here is the full
attachment showing the legal descriptions of each
condo unit. All subsequent sale deeds were signed by or
on behalf of McConville.
I compiled a list of all 300 La Mirage condo sales from
the Kern County Recorder's Office. Here is a list of
sold by Greene and here is a list of those
sold by McConville. Many straw buyers are common to
both lists. This means that Greene was familiar with and
actually selling to McConville's buyers before
McConville bought the La Mirage complex.
Did McConville really buy these 111 condo units? Greene
paid $7,840.25 transfer tax on the grant deed,
indicating a sales price of $7,127,500 or $64,211 per
unit. Where did McConville get the money? If the sale
was genuine he must have paid cash because there is no
loan for anything like that amount recorded around that
Did he really buy the 42 units in Kearny Mesa? According
to Chris Lafornara, McConville shelled out another $7.4
million 3 months later, on November 30, 2006, for the 42
units called Kearny Mesa
There are a few other tell-tales in the public record,
Agnes Kantere for example. Not only did both Greene and
McConville use her as a straw buyer, both before and
after Greene sold to McConville, they both used
her to notarize various straw buyer Trust Deeds!
Here is a
grant deed to her signed by Jeffrey Greene dated
August 3, 2006 (Greene deeded the 111 units to
McConville on August 15, 2006) and here is a
grant deed to her signed by James McConville dated
September 9, 2006. Here is her $101,500 "owner occupier"
Trust Deed to American Home Mortgage (a favorite
lender of these scammers) that goes with her August 3,
She bought 6 such condo units from Greene on August 3,
2006 and 3 more on August 7, 2006, all with
"owner-occupier" loans. Then she purchased another six
from McConville in September. Meantime she is notarizing
Trust Deeds for other McConville straw buyers like
Jack Thomas and
Heidi Lee. She appears to be the "Notary Madam".
To sum up: the "La Mirage" story describes the sordid
details of the 2000s real estate boom and bust better
than anything I have come across. Jeff Greene straddled
its component parts like a Hollywood anti-hero. The real
life Jeff Greene puts screenwriter Robert Towne's
character Noah Cross (John Huston) in my favorite movie
(1974) in the shade. "Chinatown" was considered to have
depicted the ultimate real estate scam. Not any more.
truth about McConville and Kearny Mesa Townhomes.
by Pat Flannery
this story today the Union-Tribune carefully
avoided mentioning the name of local developer Chris
Lafornara, just as the Voice of San Diego
carefully avoided mentioning the name of local developer
Ralph Giannella in a similar story about the
Sommerset Villas condos in
Escondido last week. Why is that? Aren't these
developers the real culprits?
Today the U-T even made it appear that McConville did
the condo conversion at 7555 Linda Vista Rd after
Chris Lafornara "sold" him the 42 unit condo complex on
November 30, 2006:
Townhomes, at 7555 Linda Vista Road, was converted from
apartments by Diamond House Development, a company
linked to James McConville of Fremont".
Chris Lafornara was still the principal owner of Kearny
Mesa Townhomes on September 12, 2006. On that date
he signed for a $3,450,000 loan from La Jolla Bank
as "Manager of Kearny Mesa Townhomes LLC".
The condo conversion process,
which started back in 2004, was completed on October 17,
2006 with the filing of a final
Condominium Map. This was over
before McConville supposedly "purchased" the units
on November 30, 2006.
I hope today's U-T article will not mislead the public
into believing that the condo conversion was effected by
McConville, as the U-T reported.
With regard to the
"purchase" the U-T wrote:
company bought Kearny Mesa Townhomes in November 2006
for $7.4 million, or about $176,000 per unit,
according to deed records and the previous
The "deed records" the U-T relied upon to make that
statement were recorded on November 30, 2006 as
documents number 2006-0849881 and 0849882.
purported to transfer title to the 42 condos from Kearny
Mesa Townhomes LLC to Chris Lafornara and John Watmore;
the second purported to transfer title from Chris
Lafornara and John Watmore back to Kearny Mesa Townhomes
LLC. It was a concurrent "flip", certainly not an
"arms length" sale.
Filing such an invalid grant deed makes it appear that
Lafornara "sold" the 42 unit condo complex to McConville
in order to establish a "bulk" price of $176,000 per
unit that would support inflated individual appraisals
Developers know how to use the media. Lafornara was
careful to ensure that CoStar
picked up the November 2006 "sale" and published it
as a comp for his appraisers to use later. He recently
convinced Mike Freeman that the 2006 "sale" was genuine.
Unfortunately the media believe these guys. They even
protect them by not publishing their names.
In any case the November 30, 2006 grant deed is invalid,
because it did not use the 42 individual legal
descriptions that were created on October 17, 2006 by
Condominium Map. The grant
deed used the legal description before the lot
was subdivided into 42 condos.
I hope today's U-T article will not mislead the public
into believing that a genuine sale took place "according
to deed records", as the U-T reported.
If a change of ownership of more than 25% interest in
the limited liability company (Kearny Mesa Townhomes
LLC) did take place "according to the
previous owner" as the U-T reported, such a transaction
would be detectable by a complete reconveyance (or
assumption agreement) of the Trust Deed dated September
12, 2006 securing a loan of $3,450,000 from La Jolla
Bank, because it had an "acceleration" or "due on sale"
Read it. The first associated reconveyance recorded
by La Jolla Bank for Kearny Mesa Townhomes LLC after
November 30, 2006 was on January 10, 2007 as document
If a change of ownership of Kearny Mesa Townhomes LLC
did not take place and the November 30, 2006
grant deed is invalid, the 42 purchases are invalid, the
42 loans are invalid and the foreclosures are invalid.
You cannot give a lender a security interest in a
property you do not own. Each lender would have required
title insurance, therefore the title companies are
liable for the lenders' losses. Or the title policies
are as phony as the loans!
Anybody want to purchase a 42 unit condo complex? Call
me at (619) 600-5845, I think I know where there may be
one for sale "at the right price" - after I negotiate a
settlement with a few very unhappy lenders and title
Another McConville "straw buyer" scam project.
by Pat Flannery
another San Diego county condominium project owned by
a company at Jim McConville's now infamous address,
37968 Canyon Heights Drive, Fremont. This is the current
owner list. They all appear to be typical McConville
"straw buyers" from northern California. Those units
marked with a red flag are in foreclosure i.e. almost
all of them.
The company that sold the condos,
Kearny Mesa Townhomes LLC, was
formed on September 19, 2005.
CoStar Group, a commercial
real estate information company,
reported the sale of this
apartment complex at 7555 Linda Vista Road, built in
1968, to Kearny
Mesa Townhomes LLC
on December 13, 2006 for $7.4
Chris Lafornara. CoStar
does not report the date of the sale, merely that it
Lavornara was still signing on behalf of Kearny Mesa
Townhomes LLC on September 12, 2006. Here is a
Trust Deed securing $3,450,000 for La Jolla Bank
personally signed by Chris Lafornara as "Manager of
Kearny Mesa Townhomes LLC".
A condo conversion
application for the property was "Deemed Complete" on
October 21, 2004 by the City's Development Services
Department. The applicant was
North Park Venture LLC.
Planning Commission approved the Tentative Map on
April 21, 2005 under the name "Kearny Mesa Townhomes".
Kearny Mesa Townhomes LLC
was formed by Lafornara on September 19, 2005 . The
Public Notice was on the City
Council's docket for July 31, 2006. The conversion was
completed on October 17, 2006. Here is the final
Lafornara must have wanted the transaction made public,
which is how CoStar became aware of it. He would almost
certainly be a CoStar client. They are the "MLS" of
commercial real estate.
The following documents on three of the units are
typical of the others:
All the grant deeds
were signed by Paul Giffin, a Director of Kearny Mesa
Townhomes LLC. All the Trust Deeds contained an
affidavit of owner occupancy and all were for dollar
amounts considerably more than the units were worth.
The default amount for unit # 11 as of February 27, 2009
, is $15,824.26. The last payment was made on August 1,
2008. The default amount for unit # 12 as of January 26,
2009 is $6,645.79. The last payment was made on
September 1, 2008.
Is McConville a "straw seller" who recruits "straw
buyers"? Is he the scammers' scammer, the "marketer", as
he was described in the Escondido scam?
Does he really own
thousands of condo units up and down the state? All we
know for sure is that various LLCs use his Fremont
address as do the various "straw buyers". Until we know
the ownership of these LLCs we cannot assume that
McConville is the only scammer.
Judge gives Navy Broadway the green light.
by Pat Flannery
Here is the
Tentative Ruling in the "Navy Broadway Complex
Coalition" vs. the City of San Diego case, denying the
petition. Judge Prager will formally announce his
judgment in court tomorrow morning at 10:00 A.M.
This is a devastating blow to all who believed (1) that the
Manchester Navy Broadway Complex will pose a security
risk by providing an enticing, easy target for
terrorists and (2) is being built on an active earthquake
Judge Prager blew both of these beliefs out the window
with a stroke of his judicial pen. First, he found that
"CEQA does not
require an analysis of terrorism"
despite the fact that there is no evidence that GEOCON ever did any test to
locate an active fault,
he found that
"the GEOCON Report
concluded that tests were unable to locate an active
he then concluded that
is not located within a seismic hazard zone".
It is! That alone may be grounds for appeal.
Then to add insult to injury he wagged his judicial
told us that
more than ministerial decisions were involved".
If that is correct then CCDC must be disbanded
immediately. Prager's judgment means that CCDC is nothing more than a
"ministerial" tool of the developers. What do we have a
City Council for?
the Navy's water supply impact determination made in
1992 was still good for the City's findings in 2006.
CEQA has been turned on its head by one man in a robe.
This is why for decades the San Diego elite has guarded
its control over who sits on our court benches. The "Navy
Broadway Complex Coalition" never had a chance.
There is a connection between the Escondido loan scam
and the San Diego RICO loan conspiracy - Anton
by Pat Flannery
Equity" is a DBA owned by a Rancho Santa Fe CPA and
mortgagee broker named Anton Ewing. Here are
his license details with the California Department
of Real Estate (DRE). He filed the "United Equity" DBA
with the DRE on June 16, 2008, a week before closing the
fraudulent Escondido loan on June 24, 2008.
Below is a picture of his
home (and office) at 18103 Via Ascenso, Rancho Santa Fe.
Not bad for a 38-year old veteran of the First Gulf War.
Unfortunately he is only renting it. Here is the
County Tax Assessor's record
showing the owners as John D. & Dinah C. Watkins
live and work in China.
This is their loan from Washington Mutual for
$1,500,000 when they purchased the property in
October 2007 for $2,615,000. They certified it as their
primary residence although they are living permanently
They gave a
power of attorney to Mr. Watkins Sr. in Columbus,
Ohio to sign the loan documents on their behalf. One
wonders how Washington Mutual could make an "owner
occupied" loan to somebody it knew, through employment
verification, to be living permanently in China. Perhaps
they had a broker like Ewing who knew how to get it
Now that we have a connection between the Escondido scam
and the San Diego RICO case, what next? How many of
these people knew each other?
I decided to run a check on the two northern California
addresses associated with Jim McConville. I "Google
Earthed" the properties and found that they are both
single family houses in rundown neighborhoods.
3218 Baumberg Avenue, Hayward is the worst, with
37968 Canyon Heights Drive, Fremont being the best
house on a "so-so" street. This last address is where
Escondido company sent various "consultant"
fees of $180,454, payable to a McConville
3 Mac Asset Portfolio.
Did McConville get to keep them all? Very unlikely.
a number of foreclosures in the McConville/Ayyad
company's Fresno condo complex that resemble
foreclosures in the Giannella company's Escondido condo
complex. Read my April 13, 2009 blog on the
Let's look at the situation the Linn family in Fresno
now find themselves. It is substantially the same as the
Jenkins family in Escondido: they both participated in a
loan scam for a fee and are now left holding the bag.
The Linns purchased three condos in
Stonemark Asset Portfolio, a McConville company. I
have obtained the documents on two of them. They are
worth studying to see the pattern.
On September 1, 2008 the straw owners made their last
payments. The lender filed Notices of Default (NOD) on
the First Trust Deeds only, on February 23, 2009,
on #106 and
on #117. The NODs show $6,125.98 owing on #106 and
$6,230.98 owing on #117 as of February 27, 2009. The
Second Trust Deeds will be wiped out in the foreclosure
sale. So will any leasing rights of the renters. Rental
agreements are junior to First Trust Deeds, just like
junior Trust Deeds.
Reader article, dated May 1, 2003, describes how
ex-City Councilmember Ralph Inzunza's wife Olga, worked
for Ayyad: "Until
recently, records show, Olga worked for an enterprise
run by Willie Ayyad, one of the Barrio Logan area's most
successful developers of multi-unit low-income housing.
His company, Premier Communities, has also developed
upscale condominiums in Chula Vista, Escondido, Bonsall,
La Jolla, and Alpine. In a 1998 county disclosure
filing, Inzunza listed his wife's position at the Ayyad
owned ACDW Inc. as "Accounts Payable." She is now
reported to be spending a large portion of her time
managing the couple's real estate."
ACDW Inc. operates an apartment building in Fresno,
called "Villa Hermosa".
Putting all this together and it would appear that Jim
MConville had a prior business relationship with William
Ayyad before becoming the expensive "consultant"
for Sommerset Villas, the Escondido condos sold by a
company apparently owned by his partner, Ralph Giannella.
Anton Ewing provides a connection between the RICO
"straw buyers" conspiracy, for which he and 23 others
were arrested by the FBI on April 7, 2009, and the
fraudulent loans created to sell the Escondido condos
owned by a Giannella company.
It is likely that the Feds will entice Anton Ewing to
"sing". Once the "singing" begins, we may learn
"the rest of the story".
Council imposes "last, best & final" on POA & Local 127.
by Pat Flannery
The Council deferred voting on the tentative agreements
reached with MEA,
Firefighters' Local 145 until Monday April 21, 2009
to allow full details to be worked out.
This means that the whole business of wage agreements
went surprisingly smoothly this year. We await
publication of the full details.
top^ Do journalists do
deals to get stories? 04/13/09
by Pat Flannery
Here is what the Voice
of San Diego did not tell you in its
real estate scam story:
Vicki Jenkins, the buyer, signed five trust deeds
(mortgages) as an owner-occupier on five
different properties. The Voice merely reported
that she had "loaned her identity" for a fee.
the relevant page from one of her trust deeds
showing the "owner occupancy" clause. All five trust
deeds contained this clause. Ms. Jenkins promised to
occupy all five properties as her principal residence
all at the same time! Here are her
five loans. It is fraud to obtain an owner-occupied
loan under a false declaration of occupancy. When you do
it on a federally insured loan it is a federal crime.
Did the Voice of San Diego fail to report the
loan fraud in order to protect the seller who benefited?
They spent three months investigating this and didn't
find out about the owner occupancy fraud? I spent less
than one hour investigating it and discovered it right
away. It is all in the public record.
In reporting this story the Voice never once
mentionedthe seller, Ralph Giannella. Giannella
is well known around San Diego as a major seller of
condo conversions. Using the usual maze of Limited
Liability Companies (LLCs) developers use, he had
purchased Sommerset Villas from Mark Gleiberman,
another well known condo converter. Here is his
grant deed to Vicki Jenkins using one of his many
This maze of LLCs does not excuse the Voice for
failing to include the real seller in their
investigations. They knew who he was. He had signed
this letter, which the
Voice itself published. But they never once
mentioned his name in their report, even though he had
Addendum to the Purchase Agreement,
which the Voice also published.
Giannella used this "disclosure" document in an attempt
to normalize a "secret profit". He unloaded dozens of
troubled condos in a fraudulent scheme and didn't know
about the loan fraud? There was more to this than
McConville borrowing the identities of some gullible
straw buyers. It required them to make false loan
statements. It was fraudulent in its very concept.
It had to be abundantly clear to the Voice that
Giannella knew all about the "secret profits". Yet the
Voice report is all about McConville. The local guy
is given a free pass. Look at
Settlement Statement known as the HUD-1. It shows a
"marketing fee" of $180,454 to McConville's
3 Mac Asset Portfolio! But
nothing about the seller who paid it. What was
supposed to happen to the "marketing fee" once it was
paid to McConville? Was he meant to keep it all? "Secret
profits" are usually divided up among the participants.
Ms. Jenkins is still waiting for her cut.
This is not the first time the Voice gave a free
pass to a developer with regard to "secret profits" in
dubious real estate deals. Back in July 2007 I uncovered
a land deal involving a "secret profit" to SEDC's
chairman, "Chip" Owen. Will Carless, the same
Voice of San Diego journalist who "broke" the
Escondido story, told me at the time that he had
investigated what I wrote in
my blog about Owen but could find nothing wrong with
him receiving a "secret profit" of $500,000. He refused
to investigate it further.
Carless now believes that this knowledgeable developer,
Ralph Giannella, knew nothing about the fraudulent loans
that bailed him out of his troubled condos. We are
expected to believe that Giannella gave McConville
approximately $180,000 for eachsale and
didn't suspect a thing. The Voice will probably
seek a prize for this piece of work.
Mayor gives his senior staff 3 months "heads up" to
enter DROP. 04/11/09
by Pat Flannery
Writing about Sanders' lawsuit against the
March 2, 2009, I asked
"loudly proclaims that
DROP is not a vested benefit for police officers, while
allowing his own staff and those directly under his
mayoral control to retain it as a benefit."
I am now reliably informed that he has given his senior
unclassified and unrepresented staff a "heads up" that
he will be eliminating DROP for those under his control
starting July 1, 2009. He is giving his close associates
three months to get into the City's 5 year DROP program,
while it is still possible and while the creditable
interest rate is at 7.75%.
Most of his senior staff will leave with him anyway in
January 2011, as happens with most elected offices.
top^ The City overcharged its
departments $100 million for
"pension contributions". 04/07/09 by
a copy of an account in the
City's books that shows the accumulated unpaid Annual
Required Contributions (ARC) from 1988 to 2007, known as
the Net Pension Obligation (NPO) account. It shows a
balance at June 30, 2007 of $195,556,000 owing to
SDCERS by the City.
SDCERS has confirmed that this item is not shown as an
asset in the pension fund's list of plan assets. This
means that each year the Unfunded Actuarial Liability
(UAL), the difference between pension assets and pension
liabilities, was greater by that amount. The interest
charged on the UAL was consequently greater. Interest on
the UAL is part of the ARC payment each year.
An overcharge of $100 million has therefore resulted
from the City wrongly accruing interest on its unpaid
Annual Required Contribution (ARC), despite the fact
that it is already included in the UAL. Here are these
interest charges. They total
The City must now reverse these duplicative charges.
This will result in credits to every department or fund
that has been charged NPO interest over the years with a
corresponding reduction in the NPO account. This action
will provide the Mayor with $100 million toward his
The pension fund should give back the $103 million
tobacco settlement money it received from the City in
2006. That windfall was wrongly used to pay off this
spurious interest on the NPO account. It was not a
"pension contribution" as falsely claimed by the City.
the document I have provided.
Look at the bottom of the 2006 column. You will see that
the $103 million was used to reduce the NPO balance from
$264 million to $160 million. This was a massive
misappropriation of taxpayer funds. The proceeds of the
Tobacco Settlement was used to pay off a contrived
Both the City and SDCERS must have known that unpaid ARC
increases the UAL and therefore increases interest
charges, rather like a credit card. You would hardly add
interest to your credit card payment knowing that the
credit card company already charged interest on your
outstanding balance. Yet that is exactly what the City
did. They just wanted to shovel money at their pension
Correcting this will require revisions to the City's
CAFRs. The inescapable fact is that the City
double-charged its departments, consequently its
citizens, over a period of 20 years, 16% instead of 8%,
on the accumulated unpaid portion of the Annual Required
Eliminating DROP could save $16
million immediately. 04/02/09 by
Mayor Sanders filed
in the Superior Court today seeking a Writ of Mandate
declaring that the City's Deferred Retirement Option
Program (DROP) is a "term and condition of employment",
not a "vested benefit" as claimed by the Police Officers
It says: "The Member is 100% vested in the DROP from its
inception. That means that a POA Member who has entered
DROP owns the money in his/her DROP account from the day
they entered the program. It does not mean that
entering DROP is a universal right that cannot be taken
away. Otherwise why would it be in an MOU for any
It is a benefit available as "a term and condition of
employment", which may be offered from time to time as a
term of employment, as happened in the last POA MOU. It
will be interesting to see the POA's argument.
But what struck me about Sanders' lawsuit is how he
loudly proclaims that DROP is not a vested benefit for
police officers, while allowing his own staff and those
directly under his mayoral control to retain it as a
Management personnel account for most of the DROP cost.
They are the highest paid employees, are not represented
by any union and serve at the pleasure of the Mayor. The
entire cost of DROP for these non-represented employees
could have been saved from the day Sanders entered
There is something deeply hypocritical about a man who
gets elected as a "reformer" and once elected refuses to
take a simple action that would save the taxpayer
millions of dollars. If all this time he has believed
that DROP is not a vested benefit, he should, even now,
immediately discontinue DROP for those under his