Well-known businessman Abolghassem “Abe” Alizadeh and escrow officer Mary Sue Weaver pleaded not guilty Friday to federal charges that they defrauded banks out of $20 million by falsely inflating prices Alizadeh paid for real estate in order to secure larger loan amounts.
Alizadeh, 56, of Granite Bay, and Weaver, 62, formerly of Roseville, voluntarily reported Friday with their attorneys to the U.S. District Court building in Sacramento.
They were briefly in custody while being arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Allison Claire. Neither betrayed any emotion or spoke during the court proceedings. Their not-guilty pleas were entered through their attorneys, Malcolm Segal for Alizadeh and William Portanova for Weaver.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Anderson told the judge the government views Alizadeh and Weaver as possible flight risks, a notion at which the defense attorneys scoffed.
“I resent the fact that the government portrays my client as a flight risk,” Portanova said.
Claire ordered Alizadeh released on a $3.5 million bond, secured by property owned by him and members of his family.
The judge ordered Weaver released on a $2 million bond, secured by property that she and her husband own.
Claire noted that Weaver has plans to travel abroad next month, and that she has “multiple residences and moves around a lot.” While on pretrial release, she will live in Scottsdale, Ariz., in a home owned by her husband.
The judge told Weaver that pretrial release will be a dramatic “change in lifestyle for you.” Claire told her that Scottsdale must remain her permanent residence unless the court gives its approval for a move, and that her travel will be confined to Arizona and California unless otherwise permitted by the court.
Claire said there is no guarantee that her travel out of the country next month will be approved.
The pair are due back in court Tuesday.
Alizadeh, whose assets were once valued at $1 billion, built an empire of real estate development and restaurants in the Sacramento region and elsewhere in Northern California. He fell on hard times during the recent recession.
Weaver was an escrow officer at Placer Title Co. and handled some of Alizadeh’s transactions.
Placer Title Chief Executive Officer Marsha Emmett said in a prepared statement Friday that the company has “fully cooperated with the FBI and United States attorney’s office” and would continue to do so.
Emmett said Weaver was a 17-year employee, “and we were devastated both personally and professionally by the events and allegations associated with this indictment.”
“We wish to assure our customers that Placer Title Co. has protocols and safeguards in place to ensure that our services have been, and always will be, provided with the utmost care,” Emmett said.
She said that customers’ trust funds were never in jeopardy “due to the purported acts of Ms. Weaver and Mr. Alizadeh.”
Call The Bee’s Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.