A federal grand jury has returned indictments against seven people in connection with a regional mortgage fraud scheme.
Benjamin Wagner, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, said the seven were charged with mail fraud, wire fraud and making false statements involving the purchase of at least 23 Northern California homes.
Those charged were identified as Jannice Riddick, also known as Jannice Frazier, 30, of Sacramento; Aleksandr Kovalev, 50, of Rocklin; Arthur Chang Menefee, 42, of Stockton; Elsie Pamela Fuller, 38, of Richmond; Leona Yeargin, 46, of San Pablo; Adil Qayyum, 31, of Roselle, Ill.; and Florence Francisco, 62, of Houston.
Fuller and Yeargin also were charged with aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, Kovalev developed, built and sold property in Sacramento County.
The indictment claims that Kovalev, along with Menefee and Riddick, licensed real estate salespeople, and Francisco, a licensed mortgage broker, recruited others with sufficient credit scores to act as straw buyers for residential properties.
Kovalev, through Menefee, Riddick, Francisco and Qayyum, allegedly made cash incentive payments to the straw buyers payments that were concealed from lenders.
Menefee, Riddick, Francisco and Fuller also allegedly prepared fraudulent loan applications to lenders, falsely stating straw buyers' income, assets and intent to occupy the homes as primary residences.
The indictment also claims that Yeargin and Fuller used the identification of another individual to purchase a property from Kovalev.
Menefee and Qayyum also allegedly participated in a similar scheme in connection with properties sold by individuals other than Kovalev. Officials with the U.S. attorney's office said Wednesday that Menefee and Qayyum were charged in connection with properties in Solano and San Joaquin counties.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Pickles is prosecuting the case.
If convicted on all counts, Kovalev, Menefee, Qayyum, Riddick and Francisco face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Fuller and Yeargin face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the charges of wire and mail fraud, and consecutive two-year sentences on the aggravated identity theft counts.
Officials said the indictments resulted from an investigation by the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service's criminal investigation division and the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office.
In the past several years, wide-ranging federal investigations of mortgage fraud have produced charges against dozens of area residents, many of them part of the region's Russian American community.
Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.