Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer’

Los Angeles Mortgage Fraud Arrests

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Mortgage fraud is one of those terms that people use without fully understanding what it is.  In the wake of the bursting of the housing bubble in 2008, the media started to focus on mortgages that ended up in foreclosure.  In particular, we became much more aware of banking practices that included giving mortgages to people who had no or little demonstrated income.

As a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, I can tell you that mortgage fraud is something else entirely.  While it remains to be seen whether anyone associated with major banking institutions will be criminally charged for their role in processing dubious mortgage applications, charges of mortgage fraud generally involve the applicant rather than the bank.

In California mortgage fraud cases involve a variety of related charges; mortgage fraud is more than one thing, and it almost always involves allegations that several laws were broken.

Yesterday’s arrest of nine people is a good example of how mortgage fraud cases are charged. The nine are accused of  committing fraud in connection with the sale of six houses, and netting $2.4 million in the process. Here’s how their arrests were reported by the Los Angeles Times.

“The suspects are accused of obtaining titles to the residential properties, taking out loans in the names of straw buyers, and selling the homes at inflated prices, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

Two of the loans were in names of identity fraud victims, authorities said.

In allegedly carrying out the scheme, the suspects used false bank account and employment documents, according to authorities.”

The essence of mortgage fraud is an allegation that the accused lied on their mortgage application.  The lie or misrepresentation has to be material, and can include withholding information from the bank or other institution that is reviewing the application.  Because the lie is alleged to have been made for financial motives, and a way to obtain money, mortgage fraud cases almost always include grand theft charges (California Penal Code section 487a).  This is punishable by a three-year sentence per violation.

There are common fact patterns in mortgage fraud cases, and the charges described above include two of them. One is that a straw buyer was used.  When the bank is unlikely to accept the application of a buyer, oftentimes because of a bad or incomplete credit history, a different person (the straw man or woman) is named on the application.

This case also includes allegations that the purchase price of the house was inflated. This is where the straw (and potentially others) resell the property at successively higher prices.

In addition to grand theft, mortgage fraud cases can involve the following charges: identity theft, forgery, recording a false or fraudulent financial instrument, as well as notary fraud and escrow theft.

Given the number of people who were arrested, this case also involves conspiracy charges.  It won’t be surprising, therefore, if prosecutors consider using the testimony of ”smaller fish” in an effort to build a stronger case against the perceived leaders of the conspiracy.

This case is a good example of how mortgage fraud cases are much more complicated than they first appear.







California’s Child Molestation Law: Giant Statute of Limitations Loophole

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

The recent arrest of a former Modesto teacher highlights just how treacherous California’s statute of limitation law can be regarding allegations of molesting a minor.

Christopher James Hooker, 41, is, to state the obvious, not a sympathetic figure.  He left his wife and family to live with a former student.  He and the student are adamant that their sexual relationship did not begin until after she turned 18.  Not surprisingly, the student’s mom hates Mr. Hooker, and has vowed revenge.

Thanks to California’s statute of limitations law, her wish might come true.  On Friday, April 6, 2012, Hooker was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a minor.  The charges do not, however, relate to the women he recently moved in with.  Apparently, the prosecutor couldn’t find any evidence that his current relationship is unlawful. Instead, the charges filed against Mr. Hooker relate to a different student—a 17 year old he befriended while teaching back in 1998.

It is a common misconception that murder is the only crime that doesn’t carry a statute of limitation.  That may have been the case several decades ago, but not anymore.  In fact some states including California have abolished the statute of limitations for aggravated rape (which among other things can require that the victim be seriously injured).

In addition, the legislature has made it much easier for prosecutors to file molestation charges almost at any time.  At first, the California legislature voted to abolish the statute of limitation retroactively, but the courts struck that down as unconstitutional.  The current statute of limitations for filing charges of molestation against a minor is ten years.  That would seem to be a problem for prosecutors filing charges against Mr. Hooker for what he allegedly did 14 years ago.

There is, however, a giant loophole in California statute of limitation law.  Molestation charges can also be brought one year from the date it is reported to the authorities regardless of when that happens, and even if the ten-year time limit has expired.  That’s probably why prosecutors have concluded that the statute of limitations isn’t a problem with respect to Mr. Hooker.

As a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer, I know that most people are entirely untroubled by this situation.  Most people seem to believe that no amount of time is too long to file molestation charges.  On some emotional level, that reaction might seem satisfying.  But statute of limitations charges exist for a reason. The more time passes the harder it is to find evidence.  And the memory of witnesses is especially likely to fade over time.  Moreover, child molestation charges are being made in an increasing number of divorce cases, where couples are fighting over custody.  It’s an extremely serious charge to make against someone, and unfortunately it is all too easy to make.

Time will tell whether the charges brought against Mr. Hooker are warranted.  A few things are already clear.  One is that the charges have already served one of its intended purposes.  The former student broke up with him after he was arrested. Her mother is no doubt happier.

It’s also clear that statute of limitations issues in sexual abuse cases are no place for amateurs. It is an especially important area, and one that you should bring to an experienced criminal defense lawyer.


Los Angeles DUI Checkpoints – Labor Day

Monday, September 6th, 2010

The Labor Day Los Angeles DUI checkpoint at the corner Venice of Abbot Kinney was in full swing this afternoon and evening.   If you went through this checkpoint and were then arrested for DUI, driving on a suspended license or any other offense, you may need to contact a qualified criminal lawyerwho understands how to handle complicated checkpoint cases.  DUI checkpoints are governed by stringent and detailed rules set forth by both the California Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court.   It is critical that the criminal defense attorney you hire to represent you understands that ins and outs of DUI checkpoints.  Checkpoint cases present multiple issues beyond the normal DUI case.  These issues include whether or not a “neutral formula” was used to decide which cars to stop, the methodology used to determine where to set up the checkpoint, and time limits on how long the checkpoint must operate.  There are more issues which your lawyer will explain to you.

Often people who are not DUI find themselves under arrest at checkpoints for outstanding warrants, driving on a suspended license, and other offenses.   If this has happened to you , it is even more important that you contact an attorney and explain everything that transpired during the traffic stop.   You may be surprised at how often the checkpoints are not run correctly.