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O.C. Couple Found Guilty of Clients' Identity Theft

August 21, 2003|Denise M. Bonilla | Times Staff Writer

A Corona del Mar husband-and-wife real estate team found guilty of identity theft could each face more than 10 years in prison when sentenced Oct. 3, authorities said.

Vijay Soni, 60, and Supriti Soni, 43, were found guilty Tuesday of 19 felony counts related to identity theft, including forgery, credit fraud and recording a forged real estate document. The couple, who had been free on their own recognizance, were taken into custody.

Prosecutors had accused the Sonis of using their Irvine-based companies, First Countrywide Realty and Fastrak Funding, to take clients' personal information and defraud them. Doug Brannan, senior deputy district attorney, said Irvine police began investigating the couple after a client, who had bought a house through them, found herself with a bill for $6,000 worth of furniture she did not buy and noticed the Sonis' business phone number on the receipt.

Police began an investigation in December 1998 that led to the Sonis' arrest three years later. Authorities determined that the couple had stolen the identities of four families between 1997 and 2000, and used the information to buy a Mercedes-Benz, transfer the ownership of homes and try to borrow $10,000.

The couple are scheduled to be sentenced by Superior Court Judge Ronald Kreber. The husband faces up to 11 years and four months in prison. His wife faces up to 14 years and four months.

Brannan said that according to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2001 California was second only to Washington, D.C., in the number of identity theft incidents in the country.

"We see only the most egregious cases," he said. "Undoubtedly, there are a lot more, less serious cases out there. [Identity theft] is pervasive and a real problem."

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