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Tuesday, Jul 17 2012 07:18 PM

Bakersfield family indicted in alleged mortgage fraud scheme

BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

The U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday unsealed a 26-count indictment against a Bakersfield family and their associates, accusing them of causing $5 million in lender losses in a years-long mortgage fraud scheme.

Returned by a federal grand jury on Thursday but just revealed this week, the 23-page indictment names Jara Brothers Investments Inc., or JBI, also known as Jara Brothers Development; and Pershing Partners, LLC, both property development companies.

Also named were Paragon Realty; Paragon Home Mortgage; JLE Holdings, LLC; and Owkins, LLC.

From January 2007 to 2010, at least nine people carried out a scheme to defraud banks and other mortgage lenders by selling properties owned by the developers to hand-picked borrowers whose loan applications contained false information, according to the indictment.

The borrowers were paid a fee of $10,000or more per home purchase, and later defaulted on the loans or sold the homes short -- that is, for less than the balance owed on the mortgage.

Brothers Eliseo Jara Jr., 33, and Sergio Jara, 31, owned and operated Jara Brothers Investments. Eliseo was the president and chief executive officer, and Sergio was the company secretary. Their sister, Lucia Yolanda Chavez, 34, owned Pershing Partners, LLC, which developed and sold properties in the Bakersfield area, according to the indictment.

Eliseo and Sergio also owned Paragon Realty and Paragon Home Mortgage before selling the mortgage company to broker-officer Chavez in 2007.

In some cases, Eliseo used JLE Holdings and Owkins, which he also owned, to repurchase from lenders the same homes that were foreclosed or sold short, according to the indictment. He either kept the deeply discounted purchases for rental income or resold the homes for profit, according to the indictment.

Antonio Perez-Marcial recruited people to buy homes from businesses owned by defendants, paying them to pose as legitimate buyers, according to the indictment.

Others named in the indictment were Sergio's wife, real estate broker Melissa Rochelle Jara, 31; real estate agent Arlene Mojardin, 29, sister of Eliseo, Sergio and Lucia; Melissa's sister, loan processor Candace Shantel Gonzales, 28; Lucia's husband, loan officer Joseph Shawn Chavez Jr., 38; and home buyer Ricardo Fabian Salinas, 33, according to the indictment.

All but one of the defendants lives in Bakersfield. Salinas lives in Los Angeles.

All nine are in custody, according to Justice Department spokeswoman Lauren Horwood.

None of them could be reached for comment after the indictment was released late Tuesday afternoon.

It wasn't immediately clear if the companies named in the indictment are still operating. Phone numbers for some of them were disconnected and others couldn't be found.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kirk Sherriff and Henry Carbajal III are prosecuting the case in the California Eastern District of U.S. District Court, located in Fresno.

Neither of them could be reached for an interview.

The banks that allegedly received falsified mortgage loan applications included Bank United FSB, GE Money Bank, AmTrust Bank, Countrywide Bank FSB and SunTrust Mortgage.

Each of the defendants faces some or all of an array of felonies.

Conspiracy, bank fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The maximum penalty for money laundering is 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

The indictment also seeks forfeiture of about $110,419 in cash, a 2007 Lexus GS350 and four properties.

The investigation was part of President Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, formed to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. Local investigators included agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service.

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