James D. McConville was aspiring to be the movie industry's next Wes Craven, but instead is starring in his own horror extravaganza that might be aptly titled Invasion of the Mortgage Fraudsters.
McConville and five co-conspirators have been federally charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering, involving hundreds of condominium purchases in Southern and Northern California. Many of those condominiums are now in default. Like the maniac in his film "Red Velvet," McConville and his cronies allegedly stabbed their victims in the back --metaphorically speaking, of course --when they least expected it.
And like a fright film's elusive villain, McConville has yet to be apprehended, according to indictment from the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California.
The indictment also alleges that McConville collected thousands of dollars in illegal "marketing fees" from each arranged purchase.
According to authorities, the scheme went something like this:
McConville recruited "straw buyers" who for $5,000 to $10,000 a purchase, would lend their names and credit rating to buy hundreds of California properties. They were told that they wouldn't be required to make any down payment or monthly mortgage payments.
At the same time, McConville and his cohorts conflated the condo purchase prices and siphoned off the extra money to his own family and corporate entities. He would agree to get a mortgage loan in a straw buyer's name for a much higher price than he would actually pay a for a property.
He reportedly made more than $12.5 million on the 81 condos he arranged to purchase in San Diego County. To assist him in his dirty dealings, McConville partnered with an escrow officer, notary public, banker, and others who forged documents, faked wire transfers, and stole money that was funneled into dummy corporations. Perhaps most frightening: He was able to make fraudulent deals under the noses of lenders, developers and mortgage brokers, who didn't examine the transactions closely enough.
The victims, who agreed to pose as buyers for McConville, thought they'd be making a quick $10,000 for each purchase and that ownership would be quickly transferred out of their names. Instead they were left holding the bag on dozens of defaulted properties when McConville stopped making monthly mortgage payments. Many have had their credit completely ruined and most didn't even receive the money that that they were initially promised.
"Many of us who were actually fooled by this man and are happy and relieved that he has been indicted," Vicki Jenkins, one of McConville's straw buyers, told The San Diego Union Tribune. "I'm just hoping this prevents other people from making the same mistakes we made."
Private lenders who loaned money to McConville apparently lost millions of dollars. While McConville made millions from his real estate deals, his low-budget horror movie didn't do nearly as well. Red Velvet played at several horror film festivals but couldn't find a distributor. The film stars Kelli Garner and Henry Thomas, best known for his role as Elliot in Steven Spielberg's "E.T."
James McConville, phone home. The FBI is waiting for you.