A brother and sister in California have been charged in an alleged multimillion dollar real-estate scam.
Adolfo Schoneke, 43, of Torrance, CA, and his sister, Bianca Gonzalez, 38 — also known as Blanca Schoneke — of Walnut, CA, each pleaded not guilty to nine charges on Tuesday, according to an indictment unsealed after their arrests. The indictment charges the pair with one count of conspiracy, seven counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Investigators estimate that several hundred victims lost more than $6 million collectively during the scheme.
According to the indictment, with the help of co-conspirators, both defendants operated real estate and escrow companies based in Cerritos, La Palma and Long Beach under eight different names including MCR and West Coast.
From May 2014 to December 2016, Schoneke, Gonzalez and co-conspirators allegedly committed wire fraud.
Schoneke and Gonzalez allegedly listed properties on the Multiple Listing Service using other people’s broker’s licenses at below-market value to generate interest from prospective buyers. The siblings would identify properties that could be marketed to potential buyers and trick homeowners into allowing showings, according to the indictment. In some instances, the properties were not for sale and they did not have authorization from the owners to list the property for sale. Some properties were listed as sight-unseen favorable sales opportunities and short sales.
Schoneke, Gonzalez and their employees made it falsely appear that sellers had accepted victims’ offers to purchase the properties and require down payments as part of the sale, according to the indictment. Fake short sale approval letters would go out and employees were allegedly given a script to read from when buyers questioned any part of the process. When victims attempted to cancel transactions, the indictment said, Schoneke and Gonzalez would stall any kind of complaint or law enforcement investigations by returning some of the money.
In some cases, victims were allegedly strung along for years by being told that lenders were in the process of approving the short sale.
The trial date is set for June 1 with hearings scheduled on Friday for Schoneke and April 13 for Gonzalez.
If convicted of all the charges, each sibling could face up to 162 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Schoneke and Gonzalez could not be reached for comment Wednesday.