Home listing scam sends Walnut woman to prison for nearly four years
Sister-brother duo committed $12M fraud by selling houses without owners’ knowledge
A Walnut woman who with her brother bilked would-be home buyers of $6 million after falsely listing homes for sale has been sentenced to three years and 10 months in federal prison.
Bianca Gonzalez, 41, of Walnut, aka Bianca Schoneke, pleaded guilty last year to one federal count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to City News Service via L.A. Taco.
Her brother, Adolfo Schoneke, 46, of Torrance, admitted to his role in the scheme and was sentenced last October to nine years behind bars.
The Southland siblings and other co-conspirators ran real estate and escrow companies based in Cerritos, La Palma and Long Beach under such names as MCR and West Coast Realty Services, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The group found properties that weren’t on the market that they would list for sale without their owners’ knowledge or consent, pocketing down payments and more from multiple would-be buyers.
The homes were listed on real estate websites and marketed as short sale opportunities at below-market prices. In some cases, they were marketed through open houses arranged by tricking homeowners or occupants into allowing their homes to be used.
Victims were led to believe their offers were the only one accepted, when multiple offers were accepted for the properties that were not actually for sale.
The co-conspirators strung victims along — sometimes for years — by telling them closings were delayed because lenders needed to approve the purported short sales.
Bank accounts were opened under their employees’ names to hide the co-conspirators’ involvement in the fraud.
The accounts would receive down payments on the homes and other payments from victims who were convinced to transfer the full “purchase price” after receiving forged short sale approval letters.
The employees were also directed to withdraw large sums of cash from the accounts, making it harder to trace the proceeds.
Gonzalez, Schoneke and their co-conspirators collected more than $11.7 million from about 750 victims as part of the scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Although some of the victims were paid back, the scheme caused more than $6 million in losses to nearly 400 victims. A co-conspirator, Mario Gonzalez, 50 (no relation to Bianca Gonzalez), was charged in a related case and pleaded guilty in January 2019 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
— Dana Bartholomew