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3 Orange County residents accused of fraud in home-flipping scheme

April 24, 2012|By Tiffany Hsu
  • Six people, including three from Orange County, face wire fraud charges related to a real estate flipping scheme that allegedly cost investors $4.2 million.
Six people, including three from Orange County, face wire fraud charges… (Associated Press )

Three Orange County residents are among six people charged with wire fraud related to an alleged real estate flipping scheme that bilked at least $4.2 million from more than three dozen victims, prosecutors said.

Six people in all are accused of promising investors title to bank-owned homes that they claimed could be easily resold for a profit, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

The scheme lasted from mid-2009 through mid-2010 and targeted victims through seminars held online and in Irvine, Costa Mesa, Florida and Texas, according to the indictment.

The houses, which were sold to victims for as much as $45,000, were pitched as coming with property management services and guaranteed rentals for the first three months.

Instead, according to the indictment, the properties were uninhabitable, condemned, worthless and, in some cases, nonexistent.

The defendants paid less than $10,000 for each home, some of which came burdened by tax liens, fines and building code violations, unbeknown to victims, the indictment claims.

FBI agents arrested Laguna Beach resident Sylvia Melkonian, 48, as well as Tennessee native Sheridan Snyder, 65, earlier this week. Irvine resident Andrew Wardein, 38, surrendered to authorities last week and will face trial in June. Huntington Beach resident Craig Shults, 41, will be arraigned in federal court Wednesday. Florida residents Paul LiCausi, 47 and Joseph Haymore, 31, will appear in Santa Ana court later this month.

The indictment was handed down last Wednesday by a federal grand jury but released Tuesday.

Each defendant is charged with at least five counts of wire fraud and could face 100 years or more in federal prison if convicted.

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