Housing Scheme Leads to Five Arrests in Fresno
FRESNO – Five people from Fresno were charged with 288 felony counts after they were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of running a statewide housing scheme that led to the fraudulent seizure of 23 houses in nine counties.
The California Attorney General’s Office announced the arrest of Sandra Elaine Barton, 30, Christopher Spencer Barton, 31, Daniel Paul Vedenoff, 29, Sheldon W. Feigel, 50, and Craig Merrill Mortensen, 60. Another suspect, 21-year-old Cambria Lisa Barton, has not been caught.
The Bartons and Vedenoff are accused of working with Feigel and Mortensen, both lawyers, to identify seemingly abandoned houses and file for adverse possession of the property to obtain the title. Once they had obtained ownership, the property would then be sold or rented, according to court documents.
The suspects provided fraudulent statements in court between 2006 and 2013 to obtain at least 23 homes located in the counties of Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Madera, Merced, Santa Barbara, San Mateo, Sonoma and Tulare.
An investigation into the scheme began after a Santa Barbara County homeowner seeking an equity loan in 2010 learned from a title company that Sandra Barton was listed as the deed holder of the property. A court determined that Barton’s claim was fraudulent and notified the California State Bar. The state attorney general’s office began an investigation in June 2011.
“It is reprehensible that these individual lied to the courts in order to steal homes and in some cases to demand payment from the rightful owners,” Attorney General Harris said. “The conduct of the attorneys in this scheme is even more offensive because they violated their ethical duty to be honest to the courts.”
The five suspects were booked into the Fresno County Jail and face restitution payments of at least $3.5 million. They are facing charges of perjury, filing false court records and preparing false evidence.
Fresno Bee: 5 from Fresno charged in statewide housing fraud scheme
San Jose Mercury News: Fresno residents accused of fraudulently seizing 23 houses