City cracks down on real estate fraud

Officials this week approved another six-figure grant to help pay for real estate fraud investigations in Glendale, where victims lost more than $1.6 million to related scams last fiscal year alone, officials said.

Real estate fraud can often cause severe trauma to victims — some of whom aren’t aware that they are signing their homes away or that someone has taken out a loan on their property, essentially stripping its equity, Glendale Police Det. Shawn Milligan said.

In some cases, victims lose their homes and have to hire attorneys to prove that they are the bona fide owners.

“Their whole life is turned upside down,” Milligan said.

That’s when the Glendale Police Department’s Financial Crimes unit steps in.

Using funding from a Los Angeles County Real Estate Fraud Prosecution Trust grant, Milligan conducts extensive investigations that in some cases can take up to 18 months.

This week, the City Council approved the $189,000 grant to help pay for the real estate fraud investigations. In Glendale, one of four financial crime detectives is dedicated to monitoring real estate fraud.

The Police Department has received nearly $573,000 from the fraud fund in the past five years.

The funding comes from a $3 fee taken from every real estate document logged with the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder office.

During the last fiscal year, the Police Department received 35 complaints from victims who suspected that scam artists were trying to swindle them or use their properties for fraud, Milligan said.

Three people in connection with real estate fraud cases have been arrested, he added.

Of the 35 complaints, 12 meet guidelines outlined in the fraud fund and were investigated, he said. In those 12 cases, scam artists typically filed a real estate document with the county recorder’s office.

The department’s financial crime unit investigates the remaining complaints.

When Councilman Ara Najarian decided to buy a home last year, he said he observed several different types of fraud, including real estate agents who tried to swindle him on home offers and get him to pay bogus fees.

“Although it did not cause me financial loss, it was certainly disheartening to me and perhaps others in my same position,” he said.


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