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By Casey Christie / The Californian
BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Angelo Munoz, a former real estate agent and defendant in Bakersfield's Crisp & Cole mortgage fraud case, has agreed to plead guilty to two counts of mail fraud, the U.S. Attorneys Office announced Tuesday.
While Munoz's plea remains tentative until it is accepted by a federal judge, and no date for such action has been set, the agreement makes him the 11th person to accept a plea bargain in the case.
Munoz has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud, five counts of mail fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to launder money.
Under the terms of the plea agreement signed by Munoz and his attorney Oct. 30 and filed with U.S. District Court in Fresno, the defendant agreed to forfeit $1.3 million as a "reasonable reflection" of his financial gains under the alleged criminal scheme.
In exchange, the U.S. Attorneys Office agreed to recommend a reduced sentence for Munoz.
Also Tuesday, defendant Jayson Peter Costa, a former loan officer, pleaded guilty as expected to one count of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud. He had been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud, two counts of mail fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to launder money.
Prosecutors have accused associates of the real estate firm of using straw buyers and others to buy and sell various properties multiple times as part of a plan to skim equity using artificially inflated home values. Court papers allege the defendants put false information in mortgage loan applications.
There remain four defendants who have not agreed to a deal with the U.S. Attorneys Office. They are: David Marshall Crisp, a principal at the now-defunct firm at the center of the case, Crisp, Cole & Associates; Julie Dianne Farmer, the company's former operations manager; Jeriel Salinas, a former sales agent; and Jennifer Anne Crisp, David Crisp's wife. A trial in the case is scheduled to begin Jan. 28.