A Southern California duo are accused of perpetrating a $2.9 million real estate fraud scheme in an eight-count felony complaint filed last week by the Ventura County District Attorney’s office.

The office’s Real Estate Fraud Prosecution Unit filed a complaint against Manuel “Manny” John Perez, Jr., 34, and Michele Galindo, 37, of Oxnard, Calif., charging them with seven counts of grand theft arising from their actions under the guise of Perez’s wholly owned businesses, Casa Bonita Realty, Creative Mortgage Solutions and Elite Escrow, District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced Wednesday.

Perez is charged with an additional count of forgery related to a quitclaim deed purportedly executed by his former wife.

The alleged crimes took place between May and September 2005.

Bail for Perez and Galindo was set at $500,000 each by Ventura County Superior Court Judge Roland Purnell.

Perez, who is not a state-licensed broker or agent, allegedly operated his real estate sales, financing and escrow businesses with Galindo employed as a real estate agent. The pair allegedly used a fraudulent “Rent-A-Credit” program to seek buyers for homes in which the buyers were supposedly helping others achieve home ownership, according to officials.

Galindo represented the buyers in real estate purchase transactions by submitting offers to purchase homes listed for sale. The employment, income and intention of such buyers to occupy the homes was misrepresented to lenders so the buyers could qualify to purchase the homes, officials said.

Perez allegedly continued to maintain control of the properties for leasing to prospective tenants, or his and Galindo’s own use. Moreover, the loan amounts utilized to purchase the homes were increased by several thousands of dollars above the actual contract sales price by use of inflated appraisals and phony sales contracts reflecting higher purchase prices, officials said. Once loan funding was secured, Perez and Galindo allegedly liquidated excess funds by dispersing checks to Perez from the Elite Escrow trust account.

The total monetary loss to sellers, lenders and others as reflected in the offenses charged to date is approximately 2.9 million dollars, officials said.

The Real Estate Fraud Prosecution Unit continues to investigate additional irregular transactions handled by Perez and his businesses.

If convicted, Perez could face up to 18 years in state prison and Galindo could face up to 17 years, four months in prison.

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