By Neal Putnam
Ramona real estate agent Teresa Rose was sentenced Jan. 3 to 15 months in federal prison in a mortgage loan fraud scheme. She was ordered to pay $532,687 to victims in a split restitution order with three other co-defendants.
Rose, 58, was allowed to remain free on $50,000 bond by U.S. District Court Judge John Houston until Feb. 17. Houston recommended that she be housed in a women’s prison in Phoenix at the request of her attorney, Michael Lipman.
It was a packed courtroom. On one side were Rose’s four daughters, her sister and supporters, and on the other side were several other real estate agents from Ramona, with non-supporters and one victim lender.
Afterwards, as the two groups passed each other in the hallway, applause for the sentence and yelling could be heard inside the courtroom. U.S. marshals quickly separated the two groups, and a prosecutor rushed out and talked to the non-supporters, asking them to stay back.
A woman who was with Rose’s supporters claimed one man had threatened her, but he denied it. Marshals told him to sit down on a bench and wait until the other group left on the 13th floor elevators.
Rose could have received five years in federal prison. She pleaded guilty in 2012 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, and she was the last of six people sentenced in the scheme. Her attorney said the guilty pleas represented actions that occurred in 2006 to 2007.
The state Department of Real Estate will make a determination as to whether Rose’s license will be revoked as a result of her felony convictions, said Lipman, a former federal prosecutor. However, Houston barred Rose from working in real estate after her parole and prohibited her from opening up new lines of credit.
In court documents, Lipman sought a 12-month sentence of house arrest with probation plus 1,000 hours of community service.
Matt Curtiss, the president of Camp Victory Sports in Ramona, offered in a letter to the judge to have Rose volunteer her time as a camp assistant with Ramona Youth Football and American Youth Football.
However, Houston said at the start of the sentencing he did not believe probation was appropriate. Lipman then shifted to urging a prison term not exceeding four months.
Lipman noted that Rose is the “primary caretaker” of her 6-year-old grandson, saying “she stepped up like any grandmother would do.”
According to letters from Rose’s daughters to the judge, the mother of the boy lost custody after she was arrested due to conduct involving drug addiction. The letters are public record.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Allen said Rose was the only real estate agent among the five other co-defendants and her knowledge was essential in completing the scheme. Allen said Rose made more than $200,000 from nine properties in Ramona that went into foreclosure.
Allen said the victims “feel betrayed by the conduct and unfair business practices” that included creating false records that would allow for people to qualify as home buyers. She said Rose’s role was to recruit investors as straw buyers who were promised $10,000, and she falsified loan applications.
Gesturing to other real estate agents in the audience, Allen said they were “dismayed by the case as they fear it makes them and the whole community look bad.”
Rose stood next to Lipman and apologized.
“I am so sorry for my actions and I accept full responsibility,” she said. “I cannot reverse what I did, but I can learn from it. My shame and embarrassment have taught me humility. I will never again believe in my importance. My biggest concern is my grandson.”
Houston said the total loss to victims was $2.5 million, and that Rose convinced “good people” to lie by increasing the value of the properties and income on false mortgage applications. Rose fabricated employment histories and claimed assets by victims that they did not own, he said.
Houston addressed the claim by Lipman who said Rose was duped by co-defendant Mary Armstrong, 52, of Las Vegas, who was sentenced by Houston to 100 months in prison as the mastermind in 2012.
“You continued the same fraud on your own,” said Houston to Rose, noting it continued even after Rose stopped working with Armstrong. “You used special skills and a position of trust.”
Rose was president of the homeowners association at San Vicente Country Villas IV in the San Diego Country Estates development in Ramona. Several people afterward were heard discussing whether she would remain on the board while she is in prison.
Rose waived an appeal.
William Fountain, 57, of Los Angeles, was sentenced to 42 months in prison. John Allen, 44, of Laguna Hills, received one year in 2013. Justin Mensen, 32, of Seattle, received five years probation, but he, Fountain, Armstrong and Rose were ordered to share the restitution figure. Audrey Yeboah, 55, of Los Angeles, was fined $2,500 and placed on three years probation, according to court records.