Arrests Made in San Diego Foreclosure Scam - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Arrests Made in San Diego Foreclosure Scam

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The district attorney said desperate people anxious to prevent losing their homes to foreclosure were bilked by a ring of criminals who convinced them they could declare their property to be independent nations.

One suspect, Jessica Refuerzo, 55, was arrested on Friday just after authorities asked the public for help in locating the three suspects, authorities said. No other information was immediately available about her arrest.

The search continues for Julita Whittingham, 47, and Edgardo Orcino, 57, in connection with the scam. Two other persons are already in custody.

The D.A.'s office said vulnerable homeowners facing foreclosure were told that "land patents" would make them a sovereign nation and protect them because the banks would not own the land or be able to come onto their property.

At least 17 victims have lost tens of thousands of dollars in the real estate scheme, and the investigation is ongoing.

"The victims in this case were desperate to save their homes from foreclosure," said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. "They were preyed upon by these con artists, who promised help but instead stole their money."

Including Refuerzo, authorities now have three suspects in custody, including Larry Smith, 60, who is charged with grand theft and conspiracy.

Officials asked anyone who knows the whereabouts of Whittingham or Orcino to call (619) 572-3566.

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