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How This California Scammer Used the Competitive Real Estate Market to Steal Millions Adolfo Schoneke, his sister Bianca Gonzalez and other co-conspirators orchestrated a scheme that spanned years.

By Amanda Breen Edited by Jessica Thomas

Jaskaran Kooner | Getty Images

Many prospective home buyers have found the real estate market frustrating and competitive over the past few years, and some people have taken advantage of that.

Adolfo Schoneke, 45; his sister Bianca Gonzalez, 39; and other co-conspirators orchestrated an elaborate real estate scheme and stole nearly $12 million from 750 victims, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Related: This Army Veteran and Real Estate Investor Shares His Top Tips

"Playing on the dream of home ownership and seemingly out-of-reach home prices, [Schoneke] figured out a way to 'sell' homes that he did not own and had no business in listing for sale," prosecutors stated.

Indeed, buying property has been more difficult than ever before for many Americans. According to Redfin data, U.S. home prices were up 7.6% in September 2022 compared to the year prior, with a median selling price of $403,667.

Schoneke and his co-conspirators listed properties they didn't own for sale — even if the real owners had no intention of selling — and advertised them as short-sale opportunities, using that as a convenient excuse when the fraudulent process dragged on for years, in some cases.

Schoneke directed office workers to open bank accounts in their names to hide the co-conspirators' involvement and receive down payments and other sums from the victims. Although nearly $12 million was stolen in total, some of the victims were reimbursed; almost 400 people are still out more than $6 million.

Related: Former Yale Administrator Stole More Than $40 Million From the University to Fund Lavish Lifestyle

Schoneke was sentenced to nine years in prison last month after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and his co-conspirators await sentencing. A restitution hearing is scheduled for December 12.

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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