SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man who participated in a $6 million foreclosure fraud scheme in which he stole the identities of several notaries and forged hundreds of deeds across California pleaded guilty Thursday to multiple felony charges, including rent skimming, forgery, identity theft and conspiracy to commit grand theft.
John Zepeda, 60, agreed to pay restitution and will be sentenced to 12 years in prison on February 21.
Zepeda's brother, David, also is charged in the case but remains at large, Deputy District Attorney Nida Rice said.
The conspiracy, which prosecutors called "huge" and "brazen," involved hundreds of victims in San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, Orange, Ventura, Riverside and Los Angeles counties, as well as Clark County in Nevada, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, the defendants would hold seminars for people hoping to save their homes from foreclosures.
Authorities said the Zepeda brothers identified properties in foreclosure and acquired title either by forging a quitclaim dead -- which transfers the property into a trust -- or convincing homeowners to transfer the property to them by promising the homeowner they would help avoid foreclosure.
Once they had acquired the title, the Zepedas would rent out the property, prosecutors said.
In order to forestall the foreclosure process and to extend the period over which they collected rent, the brothers also filed bankruptcy petitions, authorities said.
Money was diverted away from the lenders and owners and into accounts, where the cash was used to support the defendants' lavish lifestyle, including the purchase of exotic, high-end cars, prosecutors said.
During a search of a home in San Bernardino where the defendants were arrested last year, investigators seized $335,000 in uncashed checks; a gold Geneva watch; a gold Rolex watch; diamond bracelets and rings; $33,000 in cash; more than $8,000 in silver coins and a Bentley automobile.
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