Real estate fraudsters get creative

As real estate fraud cases increase throughout region, Glendale police say thieves are becoming more sophisticated in their approach to defrauding the real estate owners.

From falsifying documents to paying off people to use their credit to buy a home, detectives say criminals will do just about anything during the recession to make money — even if it means selling a sibling’s home without their knowledge.

Gregor Tevan was sentenced on Aug. 9 to two years in prison for doing just that to his brother, according to police.

Tevan’s brother, who declined to use his name, said he didn’t know that his rental property on Allen Avenue, where their mother lived, had been sold until Tevan confessed to another sibling about what he had done.

“I was just shocked on how easy it is to manipulate the system,” he said.

Tevan, who was a real estate agent, concocted a scheme to sell his brother’s property to pay off his gambling debts, police said.

Since Tevan helped his brother acquire three properties, he kept a record of all housing documents, his brother said.

Glendale Police Det. Daniel Suttles said Tevan forged documents by cutting and pasting critical information and using a notarized stamp to make it appear that he was the true owner of the Allen Avenue home.

Tevan sold the property for $50,000 to a buyer who he said obtained a title insurance policy. The buyer believed he could sell it to make a profit, Suttles said.

While the buyer didn’t lose any money, and while Tevan’s brother eventually regained title to the property, the title company, First American Bank, did lose money.

Tevan’s brothers notified police about the fraud after he fled the country to live with another brother in Australia, Suttles said.

Meanwhile, detectives continued to investigate the case.

Investigators typically take up to 18 months to build a real estate fraud case. They use the time to request, and then go through, hundreds of documents, Suttles said.

“[Real estate fraud] is not made to make sense,” he said.

When Tevan returned to the U.S. in August 2009, he was arrested and charged in the fraud.

He pleaded no contest last August to two felony counts of forgery, said Jane Robison, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

He was given a year to pay restitution, but did not do so, according to Suttles.

Los Angeles County Superior Judge Janice Croft sentenced Tevan to serve time behind bars and ordered him to pay $47,500 to the title company, Robison said.

The experience has opened Tevan’s brother’s eyes to the world of real estate fraud. He said he now frequently checks property records.

“I hope no one goes through it,” he said. “He broke down a whole family.”

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