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Real estate couple gets jail time for massive $50M fraud scheme

(Business News) When a well known Realtor and his loan officer wife get rich off of $50 million in falsified loans and wash profits through shell companies, judges aren’t very sympathetic.

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Judge finds couple guilty of fraud

After a long investigation, the U.S. Attorney General’s office filed charges against Eric Elegado and Charmagne Elegado for perpetrating a $50 million fraud scheme, even targeting Charmagne’s parents who lost over $75,000 to the scheme.

Charmagne masterminded the scam, according to prosecutors, and Eric was the frontman and marketing mind, parking their Bentleys, Rolls Royces, and Ferraris outside of his seminars, teaching others how to get rich like them.

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U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia sentenced the couple to three years and five months in prison each for their role, and sentencing for others involved will take place later this year.

“You were living the American dream until greed entered into the picture,” Judge Battaglia said at sentencing.

How their scheme worked

The operation falsified loan applications for underqualified buyers’ subprime loans, obtained mortgages higher than the sales price of the homes, and funneled profits through dummy corporations, leading to millions in profits. According to the FBI investigation, Charmagne was a loan officer who directed fellow loan officers, as well as agents at her husband’s brokerage, E Real Estate and Loans, to falsify income and employment on loan applications, sometimes scribbling down names of friends’ companies.

Investigators say the scheme wasn’t directed at the general public, the couple took advantage of friends and family as part of the money making scandal.

The couple says they were just trying to help people get homes, prosecutors said it was a money grab in a tight-knit community where they took advantage of the trust they had earned.

Eric’s real estate company made roughly $3.5 million on 104 fraudulent deals, and the FBI says that the loss to lenders is roughly $10.5 million.

The couple apologized in court

The Elegado’s lawyers said that the couple’s criminal conduct was brief, only between December 2005 and February 2007, and was completely uncharacteristic of the two, and that Charmagne was pressured by the culture at New Century Mortgage, where no-document loans were common, and say Charmagne can’t be singled out for an entire subprime industry which “foster[ed] this type of behavior.”

Prosecutors called this argument a distraction and pointed out that the Elegados went to great lengths to corrupt the system for years.

Both expressed to the judge that they were sorry, and Eric offered to do all of the jail time so his wife could stay at home with their young son. The plea was rejected by the judge for this crime which left many homeowners in a bad credit position, many even having to move out of the state as a result. Dozens of their family and friends present cried when Judge Battaglia sentenced both to prison.

What now for the Elegados?

Eric continues to work as a real estate agent, despite his poor reputation, and Charmagne is earning a living as an independent contractor and a part time child care worker at her church.

They live with family in Escondido and are reportedly broke. There is no word as to their ability to pay the penalties. At a restitution hearing on May 27, prosecutors plan to ask the couple to repay the $10.5 million loss the lenders saw.

Four other employees charged in the case are set to be sentenced today, and others will be sentenced later this year.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Attorney General’s office has been modified.

Tara Steele is the News Director at The American Genius, covering entrepreneur, real estate, technology news and everything in between. If you'd like to reach Tara with a question, comment, press release or hot news tip, simply click the link below.

Business News

Debunking ridiculous remote work myths (and some serious survival tips)

(BUSINESS) People new to remote work (or sending their teams home) are still nervous and have no concept of what really happens when people work from home. We’ll debunk that.

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With an entire nation (or planet) moving to a remote workforce in the midst of a global pandemic, we’re hearing some pretty wild misunderstandings of what remote work is, and how it functions effectively. Bosses are scrambling to buy up spying tech for some good ol’ hamfisted enforcement.

For those of us who have been remote for ages, it’s fascinating to watch the transition. And also offensive. People tweeting about getting to take naps and not wear pants. That’s not remote work, that’s just you being unsupervised like a child for five minutes, KEVIN.

I was chatting with my buddy Michael Pascuzzi about remote work (full disclosure, he’s a Moderator in our Remote Digital Jobs group) and despite cracking many jokes, we realized there is a lot of noise to cut through.

In the spirit of offering meat for you in these hungry times, Michael offered to put his thoughts on paper. And why should you listen to him? It’s because he has worked for several tech companies, both startups and enterprises including TrackingPoint, 3DR, and H.P. He currently works remotely for Crayon, a Norwegian Digital Transformation, and Cloud Services company. He holds an M.B.A. in Digital Media Management from St. Edward’s University and a B.A. in Art History from the University of Connecticut. He’s also wonderfully weird. And a remote worker.


In his own words below:

So you’re working remotely now. Cool.

At first, it feels.. strange. But, as you get into it, you’ll get comfortable with your routine.

I’m sure you have a preconceived notion of remote workers. You probably thought this type of work was just for Unabombers and nomads. Maybe you don’t think you have a real job any longer because you’re doing it in your Underoos.

While, yes, working from home does allow you the option to work in your underwear, you still probably shouldn’t. There’s a lot to working from home and getting work done. You’re going to get a crash course in the coming weeks. I’m going to give you a leg up on your peers by telling you what you really need to know and what nobody else is telling you about remote work.

The following is a cheat sheet to getting ahead of your peers – and maybe make a case for you to continue in this lifestyle after the pandemic has subsided.

1. Working remotely doesn’t mean playtime

Right now, you’re roughly one week into your new working arrangement. You’ve got your table, your computer, and your whole set up. You’re also taking advantage of:
– The creature comforts of home
– Nobody looking over your shoulder

Irish coffees for breakfast, no pants-wearing, and naps during lunch are all available to you now that you work from home. And let’s not forget about #WhiteClawWednesdays!

These are all terrible ideas.

Here’s why:

If you come to a phone/video meeting drunk, we’ll know. If you’re on a video call with bedhead and a wrinkled shirt, we’ll assume you’re unprofessional. White Claw Wednesdays are probably okay in moderation, but taking a shot every time Karen says something annoying on a conference call is a bad idea!

Working from home should be an enjoyable and comfortable experience, but it shouldn’t be fun. It’s still work; and work sucks.

2. Working remotely should give you a better work/life balance:

Initially, you’ll find it hard for you and for your employer to separate your work hours from your life hours. Staying working only during your work hours is VITAL to keeping your sanity. Microsoft Office 365 has a tool that measures your wellbeing in “My Analytics.” Below is a picture of my wellbeing for this month. It’s not good.

digital accounting of wellbeing

The leadership team and managers at my company stress wellbeing. We take that chart seriously, and failing to have quiet days doesn’t make you look like a hard worker. Hard workers get shit done 8-5.

3. Working remotely also doesn’t mean firing the nanny

Working remotely doesn’t equal additional family time. Your work hours are your work hours. The pandemic quarantine doesn’t leave a whole lot of options for families to coexist without overlapping.

And it’s okay to occasionally have a “coworker.” But, you need to create your own private workspace within the hustle and bustle of homeschooling going on around you.

Here are a few more best practices you won’t read anywhere else:

You’ll need to learn to distance yourself from “work” when no longer at your “office.” This means powering down at the end of the day. Having a work/life balance when you work from home tends to swing in the opposite direction than you probably assumed; work can take over your life.

  • You’re going to have to turn off mobile notifications 100% of the time. It’s a pandemic, you’re not traveling; you don’t need them on – ever.
  • Turn off your computer at the end of the day. It’s good for your computer, and it’s fantastic for your mental health.
  • If your manager needs to reach you or you need to contact a direct report, just follow the wise words of Kim Possible: Call me, beep me if you wanna reach me.
  • You must wear pants. (FYI guys, dark leggings look like real pants and are super comfortable) Get ready for your day as if it were a regular office. Take a shower, shave, comb your hair, eat breakfast in the kitchen, wear jewelry. Look like you give a damn.

  • You must turn on your camera for video calls (and please don’t take your laptop into the bathroom. no field trips). Nonverbal communication accounts for 93% of all communication. We need to see your face, your posture, your eyerolls.
  • All of your calls should be video calls. You’ll find you’ll miss humans if you do not see them daily.
  • Clean the room (or at least directly behind you). We shouldn’t see laundry and quarantine snacks in the background. We absolutely should never HEAR you opening a bag of chips.
  • Close your door. Kitchen, office, bedroom… whatever you’re using needs to be YOUR space. It’s your office. Your clubhouse. Only one Homer allowed.

And for the love of all that isn’t COVID, please wear pants.

More resources:

I’m on a team at Crayon that freely consults on working remotely and cloud technology. This isn’t a sales pitch. If you have questions or need productivity tips, you can always email my team directly at contact.us@crayon.com.

Meanwhile, here are some additional resources to dig into:

  1. 20 tips for working from home
  2. Guide to engaging a distributed workforce
  3. Top 15 tips to effectively manage remote employees
  4. How to make working from home work for you

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Business News

Will House Democrats pass the new Senate stimulus package?

(BUSINESS NEWS) A new stimulus package for the COVID-19 pandemic has come from the senate, the question now is will the House Democrats accept and pass it?

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Congress can’t seem to agree about COVID-19 relief. Yesterday, the Senate and the White House came to an agreement on a $2 trillion economic stimulus package. The Democrats are now the hold-up. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has publicly stated that the House will be reviewing the bill, but there is no commitment as to whether the bill will pass or not. The Hill reported that some House Democrats are concerned that they have not provided any input.

What’s in the measure?

According to CBS News, the actual text of the measure hasn’t been released, but they did get information from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about some of the contents:

• Expanded unemployment benefits to boost the maximum benefit and to give laid-off workers full pay for four months
• Direct payments to individuals making less than $99,000
• $130 billion for hospitals
• $367 billion in loans for small business
• $150 billion for state and local governments
• $500 billion for large businesses
• Creates an oversight board to govern large loans
• Prohibitions to prevent President Trump and family from getting federal relief

Will the measure pass?

Pelosi has said that this measure is a big improvement over the Republican’s first proposal. It seems as if she is working hard to move the measure through the House, but given the current state of politics, it’s hard to believe that anything will be done without some debate. Many Democrats have pushed for a food stamp increase, which is not in the current measure. However, the Democrats did win on the oversight board that protects the employees of the companies who are getting loans. Money for states was another Democrat victory in the current measure.

If the bill can pass the House unanimously, lawmakers won’t have to vote on the floor. If the House can’t agree, the House will need to reconvene and amend the Senate measure or pass their own measure. Under the COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine issues, it might be difficult to get anything done quickly. The urgency is real, but so is the responsibility. The Democrats want the money to do what Congress intends, not for CEO compensation or stock buyouts.

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MLMs under investigation for claiming they have a COVID-19 miracle cure

(BUSINESS NEWS) Guys, there is currently no cure for COVID-19 and it’s definitely not being sold by your friend in an MLM or whatever their company calls themselves.

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It should go without saying that essential oils are NOT a cure for COVID-19, but unfortunately, the MLMs are at it again. Yes, that’s right, there are people trying to market their oils, pills…etc. as a way to stave off the pandemic that is currently upon us. So before we go any further, may I remind y’all that there is no miracle cure to treat or prevent the virus.

Do not use MLM products as a replacement for the actions laid out by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), like social distancing and vigorous hand washing.

Don’t get me wrong, if you or your friends or relatives want to use MLM products on top of the advice given by doctors and scientists, go ahead. But advertising that these products can cure a disease that’s currently spreading across the world isn’t just irresponsible, it’s dangerous. Even if you don’t catch it, you’re still at risk of spreading the virus.

As of right now, the FTC is investigating seven companies over COVID-19 related claims, but you should be suspicious of anyone claiming they have something that will help. Do your homework. Sources like the CDC and WHO (World Health Organization) are great places to start if you’re unsure about information that you see on social media or hear from a friend. Disinformation is everywhere, so it’s vital to keep track of sources.

If you do stumble across a friend or family member trying to slip in MLM sales during this global crisis, be civil in your rebuttals. Many people join MLMs because they’ve been struggling to make money elsewhere. MLMs are notorious for targeting immigrants and stay-at-home moms. With COVID-19 bringing a slew of job loss, financial circumstances for many are more precarious than ever, which could very well put pressure on people in MLMs.

In short: MLM corporations that advertise a miracle cure? I didn’t think these companies could be more evil, but I was wrong. Your friend on Facebook touting their essential oil as a miracle cure? Definitely not great, but there might be more going on than meets the eye, so be honest with them, but also be kind.

It’s no magic cure, but a drop of kindness could go a long way right now.

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