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.
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.
"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.
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.
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