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HUNTINGTON PARK : Defrauder Still Holds Realty License


About a year after she was convicted of defrauding a 70-year-old woman in a real estate scheme, Mercedes Espinosa remains a licensed real estate agent.

The state Department of Real Estate is reviewing Espinosa's case after the department's commissioner disagreed with an administrative judge's decision last month that allowed Espinosa to retain her license.

The department is expected to decide in July whether to revoke Espinosa's license, said Bob Baker, chief attorney for the Los Angeles office of the Department of Real Estate.

Espinosa, who also uses the name Hernandez, was convicted in June, 1992, of grand theft in a scheme to defraud Clara Muniz, said Don Tamura, a prosecutor in the district attorney's major fraud office.

Espinosa was sentenced to a year in jail, six years' probation and ordered to pay $255,000 in restitution to several victims. She was released from prison after serving two months, and would not comment on the case beyond saying she is now working as a secretary at Las Americas Realty in Huntington Park.

Espinosa's attorney, Elsa Leyva, declined to comment except to say her client is working to repay Muniz.

However, a woman who answered the telephone at the realty office said Espinosa works there as a real estate agent.

Muniz, whom Espinosa has repaid $39,000 of $135,000 in restitution, is angry that Espinosa still has a real estate license. "I asked myself, 'How does the system work when she is once again selling real estate?' " said Muniz, a Hawthorne resident.

Muniz said her problems began after she met Espinosa a few years ago through a mutual friend. Muniz lent Espinosa money on several occasions. Espinosa repaid some of the money and offered deeds of trust on other properties, according to authorities.

However, the relationship soured when Muniz received a foreclosure notice on an apartment building she owned on 142nd Street in Hawthorne. Espinosa and Martha Carillo were charged with grand theft after Carillo attempted to sell a second deed of trust on the building without Muniz's consent. Carillo remains at large.

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