LOS ANGELES - A Torrance man and his sister have pleaded guilty to running a $6 million real estate scam with his sister, in which they "sold" houses that weren't ever for sale, according to officials.
Adolfo Schoneke, 44, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to the Department of Justice, Schoneke and his sister Bianca Gonzalez, 39, operated escrow companies from 2013-2016 through which they listed homes for sale that they didn't intend to actually sell to anyone. The escrow companies were based in Cerritos, La Palma and Long Beach under a number of different names.
Officials say the properties were listed on real estate websites such as below-market short sales, and that in some cases, the siblings even held open houses at the not-for-sale homes, by tricking the homeowners into allowing their homes to be used. The DOJ says that the companies would then accept multiple offers on the same homes, telling each of the would-be buyers that their offer was the successful one.
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When the houses were never closed upon, officials say, Schoneke and Gonzalez's associates would string buyers along - sometimes for years - saying that lenders needed to approve the short sales.
All told, investigators estimate that several hundred victims collectively lost more than $6 million during the scheme.
Schoneke is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 8. Gonzalez will be sentenced on Oct. 3. They could face up to 20 years in federal prison.