Court hearings have been set for nine of the 12 defendants charged with 142 felony counts of illegally obtaining loans to buy properties throughout the Valley, bilking banks and lending institutions out of millions of dollars.
The defendants illegally obtained $15.2 million in loans to buy 19 homes in Fresno, Clovis, Sanger and Bakersfield between July 2005 and December 2006, according to a complaint filed by the Fresno County District Attorney's Office.
Nine banks and loan companies in California -- including in Fresno -- and from Eastern states had a net loss of $5.7 million as a result of the schemes.
The complaint alleges that the defendants set up a "strawbuyer scheme." Deputy District Attorney Sydney Ricks described the scheme in generic terms not related to this case: Information from identity theft is used without a person's knowledge to buy property, or people are tricked into taking part in the fraudulent purchase.
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Six of the defendants -- husband and wife Lisa Sanchez, 35, and Johnny Marcos Sanchez, 39; and Carrie Cecelia Hernandez, 47; Rey Zamora, 40; Isaac Paul Ramirez, 28; and Albert Theodore Gonzales, 35 -- appeared in Fresno County Superior Court on Friday, where a pre-preliminary hearing was set for Dec. 1.
Separate hearings were held for three other defendants.
David R. Herrera, 27, pleaded not guilty during an arraignment in court Friday. A pre-preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 19.
Lorenzo Lopez Jr., 27, is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
Ryan Lynn Garcia, 35, is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 1.
Three other defendants -- Anthony Julian Ramon, 28; Asim Ali, 31; and Serey Kem, 34 -- are still being sought, Ricks said.
All 12 defendants are charged with grand theft, forgery, identity theft, falsely notarizing documents and recording a false or forged deed of trust or other documents.
All the defendants are from the Valley, but some later moved out of state, Ricks said.
Eight victims are identified in the complaint, but Ricks said none of them lost homes in the case.
In a related case, four notary publics were charged with 22 felony counts of knowingly assisting in the real estate fraud scheme by notarizing forged documents that were then recorded with the Fresno County Recorder's Office.
Two of them -- Lisa English, 30, and Tiffany Nicole Sierra, 29 -- were arraigned and are scheduled for a pre-preliminary hearing Nov. 30.
The other two -- Stevette Gambril, 42, and Erica Quintero, 26 -- will be arraigned Nov. 15.