SoCal man faces 20 years in federal prison for elaborate real estate scam
A Southern California man who worked with his sister to operate a $6 million real estate fraud scam in which homes were listed for sale without the owners’ consent and would-be buyers were bilked out of money pleaded guilty Monday to a federal charge.
Adolfo Schoneke, 44, of Torrance, entered his plea to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Schoneke faces up to 20 years in federal prison on Aug. 8, when he will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner.
Schoneke’s sister, 39-year-old Bianca Gonzalez — also known as Blanca Schoneke — pleaded guilty April 4 in LA federal court to the same charge. She is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 3.
Schoneke and Gonzalez, with the help of co-conspirators, operated real estate and escrow companies based in Cerritos, La Palma and Long Beach under various names, including MCR and West Coast, prosecutors said.
They admitted finding properties that they would list for sale — even though many were not on the market, and the pair did not have authority to list them. Prosecutors said they would then market the properties as short sales, providing opportunities for purchases at below-market prices.
Using other people’s broker’s licenses, Schoneke and Gonzalez listed the properties on real estate websites such as the Multiple Listing Service. In some cases, the homes were marketed through open houses that co-conspirators were able to host after tricking homeowners into allowing their homes to be used, according to court papers.
As part of the scheme, the co-conspirators accepted multiple offers for each of the not-for-sale properties, leading each of the victims to believe that their offers were the only ones accepted, prosecutors said.
Scam victims were then strung along, sometimes for years, with the co-conspirators telling them closings were being delayed due to the process of lenders approving the short sales, according to the plea agreement.
Schoneke and Gonzalez directed office workers to open bank accounts in the workers’ names, and the accounts were used to deposit down payments and other funds from victims, who were convinced to transfer the full “purchase price” after receiving forged sale documents, prosecutors said.
Investigators estimate that several hundred victims collectively lost more than $6 million.
A co-conspirator, Mario Gonzalez, 50, was charged in a related case and pleaded guilty in January 2019 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 3.