A woman who jumped bail after her arrest on multiple counts of real estate fraud in Huntington Beach in 1984 has been identified as the suspect in a similar scam in Los Angeles County, a detective said Friday.
Sgt. Bob Brown of the Los Angeles Police Department said Eva Patricia Verner, 43, has been identified through photographs by a Covina woman, one of two victims of Verner's alleged scam.
Verner, then living in Mission Viejo, was arrested in Huntington Beach in June, 1984, after investigators discovered a major fraud operation involving the sale of properties. Using 13 fictitious names, Verner allegedly was involved in a number of real estate transactions on property she did not own.
Verner pleaded not guilty to 27 counts of grand theft and forgery. Jailed on bail of $200,000, she later posted a $50,000 bond when the bail was reduced. Once released, she disappeared.
In the Huntington Beach cases, Verner was suspected of selling vacant land or abandoned houses she did not own. She allegedly would advertise the properties in newspapers as "distress sales" at very low prices.
Brown said Friday that there have been two victims of such practices in recent months in Los Angeles County, but there might be others not reported.
According to Brown, the suspect, using the name Janet Guest or Jane Guest, called Cheryl Ekstrom of Covina and offered to rent a house Ekstrom owned in Diamond Bar. Although the caller claimed that she needed the house immediately to accommodate her ailing mother, the house was never occupied.
"What she would do is she would file a new deed, substituting the (real) lender with a fictitious lender," Brown said.
The suspect then listed the house with a real estate broker and sold the house for "$20,000 to $50,000" less than what it was worth, police said. Shortly before the deal closed, a woman believed to be Verner called the escrow company holding proceeds from the fraudulent sale and gave specific instructions on where to send the money.
"It was a large wire transaction, made to an American bank and then transferred to a Canadian bank," Brown said, adding that the money eventually ended up in a bank account in the Cayman Islands.
The woman was able to pull off the entire scam in less than a month. The owner did not realize that her tenant had sold her property until July 27, Brown said. Two weeks ago, he said, "Guest" was positively identified by Ekstrom as the same person who jumped bail in Huntington Beach four years ago.
The second victim, who lives in La Verne, was duped in a similar manner, Brown said.