Officials launched a 102-count criminal complaint against a Northern California man Thursday for his alleged role in a real estate investment scheme.

The District Attorney of Santa Cruz County in California filed a felony complaint against Michael J. Schneider, alleging he stole more than $17.5 million from a group of local investors who were led to believe that they were making secured real estate loans through Schneider’s company, California Plan Inc., according to a statement from the DA’s office.

Bail was set at $10 million.

Since 1993, Schneider owned and operated California Plan, located at 3595 Stevens Creek Road in San Jose, Calif., according to officials.

Schneider and his company were licensed by the Department of Real Estate as mortgage brokers. The accused’s company specialized in finding private moneylenders to make “equity mortgage loans” to borrowers who were in need of money, officials said, and the company would also act as the loan-servicing agent for the investors that made real estate loans through Schneider.

In the Santa Cruz case, Schneider allegedly failed to secure investors’ loans with validly recorded deeds of trust and instead would give investors phony deeds and keep their money, officials said.

Schneider also allegedly failed to tell investors when their loans were paid off and kept the loan payoff where he did record a deed of trust, officials said, and the accused would send monthly loan payments to investors to keep them from discovering the fraudulent acts.

Schneider’s scheme involved 71 loan transactions from 1995 through December 2005, according to the investigation. Schneider was previously arrested by Santa Clara authorities on May 1, 2006, for similar charges involving investors from Santa Clara County, and he has been in custody since his arrest in Santa Clara.

Persons who may have invested with Schneider/California Plan are encouraged to contact inspector Kent Schlumbrecht at the District Attorney’s Office 831-454-2574.

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