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California and the West

Loan Broker Is Convicted in Real Estate Scam

January 11, 2006|Annette Haddad | Times Staff Writer

A Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., mortgage broker and appraiser was convicted Tuesday in federal court in Santa Ana of operating a real estate flipping scheme that defrauded mortgage lenders of $6 million.

James Davis Bennett, 52, convicted on 11 counts, faces a possible life sentence for financial crimes that include bank and wire fraud, Assistant U.S. Atty. Brett Sagel said.

From 1999 to 2002, Bennett bought 14 properties in distressed areas of Los Angeles and Long Beach and then resold them to unqualified buyers at inflated prices.

As part of the mortgage scheme, Bennett prepared fraudulent loan applications in the buyers' names, doctored appraisals and acted as the escrow officer. Lenders then issued more than $6 million in mortgages to the buyers, many of whom fell into foreclosure, Sagel said.

The state Department of Real Estate has moved to revoke Bennett's license but he currently has the right to a restricted license.

Bennett's attorney, Michael Meza, didn't return calls seeking comment. Bennett is scheduled to be sentenced April 14.

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