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Thursday, Feb 28 2013 08:19 PM

Rubio may face probe into luxury home lease

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Former state Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, is blamed for leaving his party flat-footed twice, weakening its grip on power: When he dropped out of the 21st Congressional District race in 2012 for family reasons and when he resigned from the Senate mid-term, in 2013, to take a job with Chevron. Here he is in a 2011 photo.

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BY JAMES BURGER Californian staff writer jburger@bakersfield.com

California's campaign watchdog agency may investigate whether former state Sen. Michael Rubio (D-Shafter) is getting a special break on his home payments from a campaign supporter.

"We have received a complaint and are in the process of reviewing it to determine whether or not we will open an investigation," wrote Gary Winuk, the chief of the enforcement division of the Fair Political Practices Commission on Thursday.

Related Info

Fran Florez may run for seat

A new name surfaced late Thursday as a possible candidate in the race to replace Michael Rubio in the state Senate.

Former Shafter mayor Fran Florez, tweeting from a band-new account called @Florez4Valley, wrote: "150Days to SD16 Special elex: I'm only candidate w/name rec & familiarity w/Fresno & Kern Co. Expect more news soon!"

Florez ran unsuccessfully for state Assembly in 2010. She is the mother of former Democratic state Sen. Dean Florez.

Gov. Jerry Brown must call a special election to replace Rubio. Until he does, there is no date set for the election.

Fran Florez has served as a community board member at San Joaquin hospital and more recently on the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

She was appointed by a California Senate panel to the California Medical Assistance Commission, a job that pays $56,095 annually, plus travel expenses. Commissioners meet twice a month on average. The commission coordinates health care services for Medi-Cal recipients and is charged with promoting efficient and cost-effective Medi-Cal programs through a system of negotiated contracts.

Her term was scheduled to end on Jan. 1 of this year.

Rubio, who abruptly stepped down from his Senate position last Friday, says he is leasing a $681,000 Northern California luxury home from a family friend for $3,000 a month.

Real estate professionals contacted Thursday by The Californian said that's less than the market rate for what the mortgage would be on such a home.

These professionals place the monthly payment on a loan like the one Rubio said he took out from Dcm Assets Management last March at around $4,082.

The four-bedroom home is in a gated community in the ritzy El Dorado Hills community of Villa Lago, a suburb east of Sacramento. It has 4,660 square feet of space and five bathrooms.

The principal officer of Dcm Assets Management is Bakersfield oil man and Rubio campaign supporter Majid Mojibi.

The FPPC could be trying to determine whether the apparent break given to Rubio on his monthly payments constitutes an illegal gift from a campaign supporter.

The March 2012 loan, and Rubio's decision to return the property to Dcm Asset Management just months later in August, was the second time San Joaquin Refining Co. President Mojibi's help came Rubio's way in a real estate transaction.

Rubio has said the deals, including the short sale of his underwater former home at 320 Quincy St. in Bakersfield to Mojibi in 2011, were above board and conducted with an attorney's oversight.

But Rubio's statements, and information from real estate professionals, indicate that a typical borrower in Rubio's situation probably couldn't have obtained the loan on the Villa Lago property last year.

Commenting generally about state rules, said Winuk of the FPPC, "if you receive a gift of funds, a loan with terms not available to the general public, or income from the sale of a home, it must be disclosed on the public official's statement of economic interests."

Rubio resigned his 16th District Senate seat on Friday -- halfway through his first term in office -- to take a government affairs manager job with Chevron Corp.

He did not return texts Thursday asking for comment on the situation and his cellphone's voicemail box was full.

At 6 percent interest -- the rate Rubio told the Sacramento Bee that he agreed to pay Dcm Asset Management, LLC when it floated him a mortgage loan in March 2012 -- the monthly payment on the Villa Lago home without a downpayment would be $4,082, real estate professionals said.

Mojibi could not be reached at the refinery and did not return a late call to his home seeking comment.

Bakersfield appraiser Gary Crabtree said a $4,082 monthly mortgage payment -- principal and interest only -- would buy a $681,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 6 percent interest.

Matt Perry, president of the Central Valley chapter of the California Association of Mortgage Professionals, gave the same $4,082 monthly mortgage payment.

Perry said that a typical mortgage lending institution would ask around 4.5 percent interest for a loan that sizable, making the monthly payment $3,450 -- still above Rubio's current rent on the property.

But Rubio likely would never have gotten the mortgage on the Villa Lago home without someone like Mojibi.

Rubio had a short sale on his record -- the loan on property on Quincy Street -- and officially lived in a small 1,104-square- foot, three bedroom home he owned in Shafter.

He said Wednesday that he couldn't get a "conventional" loan for the Villa Lago home.

Perry said a mortgage company, looking at a $681,000 mortgage for a person with an existing home loan, would be asking a borrower to have 12 months of "liquid reserves" to cover both properties, a credit score higher than 720 and a 20 percent downpayment.

Large loans, such as the one on Rubio's property, are generally more risky for mortgage companies because federal lending institutions will not buy them, both Crabtree and Perry said.

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