By Neal Putnam
Ramona real estate agent Teresa Rose will be sentenced Dec. 3 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering in connection with a scheme involving mortgage loan fraud.
Rose, 57, is among three others charged in U.S. District Court in San Diego who allegedly carried out a scheme by recruiting investors through ads to purchase homes in Ramona and elsewhere as straw buyers who were promised $10,000.
Her attorney, Michael Lipman, who is a former federal prosecutor, issued a statement saying Rose was duped by co-defendant Mary Armstrong, 51, who was arrested July 12 in Las Vegas.
“Teresa Rose pled guilty based on limited conduct that occurred in the 2006 to 2007 time period involving nine transactions in Ramona. She is ashamed of this conduct and looks forward to putting it behind her,” stated Lipman.
“Ms. Rose was largely duped by Mary Armstong, whom she never met. Ms. Rose did not know that Armstrong had recruited straw buyers,” said Lipman.
“She never received any of the alleged $1.5 million in illegal profits. Her biggest mistake was not completely withdrawing from all dealings with Armstrong and others,” stated Lipman.
“There is nothing wrong with a real estate salesperson representing both the buyer and the seller in a transaction,” said her attorney.
Rose is no longer associated with Coldwell Banker Country Realty in Ramona. The conspiracy charge says she worked at Coldwell in 2006 and 2007. The firm was under different ownership and was Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in 2006 and 2007.
Rose, who is free on $50,000 bond, faces a maximum term of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. She also may be eligible for probation, particularly if she agrees to pay restitution if ordered.
William Fountain, 56, of Los Angeles, is also charged in the grand jury indictment that was unsealed last week, and was arrested May 25. He has pleaded not guilty.
Justin Menson, 31, of Seattle, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge on April 18 and is awaiting sentencing.
The plea agreement with Rose says the defendants arranged real estate sales with inflated prices funded by mortgage lenders based on fraudulent loan applications. She collected commissions on sales as every other real estate agent does.
Some sales prices were inflated by approximately $100,000. Armstrong told Rose she had identified individuals with good credit to serve as purchasers for the selected properties. Rose at some point learned there were sham companies controlled by others, according to her plea agreement.
Court records say Rose arranged for a company to falsely verify Mensen’s employment in 2006, and address, via fax transactions. Rose signed a consumer signature card at Ramona National Bank in 2006 to convince a mortgage lender to fund a loan for someone.
The plea agreement says Rose faxed verification of deposit for the purchase of a home on Handlebar Road which falsely stated the buyer’s savings account balance. She also invoiced $100,000 in construction done on this property when no such construction occurred before escrow.
Armstrong informed Rose in 2007 the $100,000 in construction costs were sent to companies that diverted the money to Armstrong, who is considered the scheme leader. Armstrong told Rose not to talk with law enforcement in early 2007.