Two years ago, Miami New Times was the first media outlet to report on a crew of scammers who swindled $2.4 million out of 15 real estate investors who believed they were getting sweetheart deals on foreclosed properties. The Miami-Dade Inspector General's Office busted the delinquents last February. Now one of them, Zoraida Abreu, is throwing up the white flag.
Earlier this month, Abreu pleaded guilty to to eight felony charges including racketeering, first-degree grand theft, and second-degree grand theft. But she isn't getting any jail time. Instead she'll serve 15 years probation in exchange for her cooperation against her three co-conspirators.
Abreu was used by her accomplices Ayda Young and Yohany Garcia, two women with previous arrests for fraud, to form a company called Miami-Dade County Short Sales Inc. The trio used the company to to lure victims into believing that they were getting rock bottom prices on real estate. They fooled investors by falsely claiming they had a county court employee who could facilitate the pre-sale of a property prior to the scheduled public auction to satisfy the tax certificate holders. It was false that a county employee was involved in the tax deed scheme.
In another scheme, the women lured buyers into believing that they were purchasing
lucrative short sale properties. It was a big fat lie. Abreu, Young, and Garcia nor their company had the legal authority to sell any of the properties they purported to broker. For both schemes, victim losses ranged from $6,000 to over $500,000, for total losses exceeding $2.4 million.
One of the victims, Texan Richard Cross, lost $380,000 he had wired to an account owned By Miami-Dade County Short Sales. Cross subsequently learned that Young and Garcia both had previous convictions for fraud. Despite hiring a private investigator and confronting Young at her house in 2010, Cross only recovered $30,000 from the women. He then filed a complaint with Miami-Dade Police and the inspector general's office.
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The women would cash the checks at check cashing stores owned by Johnny Bou-Nassar, who was charged with grand theft. Bou-Nassar, Young, and Garcia are set to go to trial in early June.
Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.