A San Diego real estate agent has been sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to helping launder money and falsifying loan documents to help a convicted marijuana trafficker purchase two homes, prosecutors said.
In entering guilty pleas in March to two counts of money laundering, prosecutors said Marco Manuel Luis, 32, admitted that he was the real estate agent for Joshua John Hester. Hester pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to distribute and manufacture marijuana and seven other charges related to a "grow house" in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and the operation of two medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego.
In his guilty plea, Luis admitted that he facilitated the purchase of the alleged grow house, located at 15702 Circo Diegueno in Rancho Santa Fe, for $2 million, on behalf of co-defendants Hester and Kelsey Wiedenhoefer.
Luis admitted to falsifying the loan application for the property in Wiedenhoefer’s name, including her alleged annual income of $420,000, her employment history, and the source of down payments for the property. Luis knew that the monthly mortgage payments were made with "criminally derived proceeds," prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Luis also admitted that he prepared a fraudulent loan application for a Palomar Mountain property and residence in the name of Jay Hansen, misrepresenting Hansen’s employment history and income.
In sentencing Luis, U.S. District Court Judge Irma Gonzalez found that he "clearly knew that the money involved in the conspiracy for both counts including the down payment and monthly mortgage payments were drug proceeds based on his ongoing personal and business relationship with the convicted drug traffickers," prosecutors said.
Gonzalez found that Luis "intentionally hid the true owner of the properties" to conceal Hester’s drug proceeds, and ordered restitution to banks that suffered losses in excess of $500,000 when the properties were eventually foreclosed on.
The Rancho Santa Fe property — a five-bedroom, 4,538-square-foot home built in 1987 — sold in June for $1.13 million, according public records reported by Zillow.com.
Luis, Hester and Wiedenhoefer were among 13 people indicted in 2010 for conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. Hester was the 11th defendant to enter a guilty plea in January, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported at the time. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 29, the paper said this week, with Wiedenhoefer’s sentencing set for Nov. 13.