For many people, the essence of the “American Dream” is to own their own home. However, even with working hard and trying to save, issues such as credit challenges and unexpected expenses can make homeownership seem impossible. For those who have language barriers in addition to these issues, the process can be confusing as well as difficult. Unfortunately, as some Arizona citizens learned first-hand, it’s easy for people in this position to fall victim to real estate cons. Here is more on the latest real estate scam targeting Arizona families:
Father and Son Real Estate Scam
According to Arizona Attorney General, Mark Brnovich, father and son, Ruben and Rodrigo Diaz, and their wives perpetrated a real estate scam wherein they targeted and deceived dozens of Spanish-speaking and Hispanic consumers. The victims were individuals who could not take out traditional mortgages or were unfamiliar with the real estate transaction process.
The Scammers Accepted Money and Did Not Perform Real Estate Services
Ruben and Rodrigo Diaz engaged in several acts where they took money from victims promising to assist them with real estate matters and then never performed any services. One scam included promising to help victims with short-sales, accepting tens of thousands of dollars and then never doing anything. In one instance, an owner’s property went into foreclosure because of their inaction. The pair also collected massive fees without doing anything. The Diazes also took down payments, did not use the funds to secure property and never refunded them to the victims. In one report, Jose Godoy, the pastor of Iglesia Apostolica Linaje Escogido, said that 30 parishioners gave Ruben Diaz a $13,000 down payment to buy a small house for their church services. Pastor Godoy signed documents and waited but did not hear from Diaz. After weeks of being put off, he found out that Diaz had changed his phone number. When he went to Diaz’s alleged office, he found it was a fake address. Months passed, and Diaz refunded $1,500, but the $11,500 was never repaid to the church.
Neither Ruben nor Rodrigo Diaz was a licensed real estate agent, lender, or broker. Yet, they represented to their victims that they could perform all of these services. The Diazes had a reported nine shell companies in place at the time their scam was discovered.
Deceived Spanish-Speaking Clients
Ruben and Rodrigo Diaz would also target and prey on Spanish-speaking victims. The two would take money from and present their victims with paperwork written in English, and tell them that they conveyed legal interest in real property. However, what the victims actually signed, were rental leases. In some cases, families had been living in what they believe to be their homes for years, only to find out that they had no ownership rights or equity in the property.
The Attorney General’s Office settled its case against the father and son under the terms that Ruben Diaz pay $425,313 in restitution to consumers, as well as $100,000 in civil penalties to the state, and that neither Ruben nor Rodrigo Diaz be allowed to advertise or work in real estate in Arizona again.
Work with Arizona Real Estate Professionals
If you are buying or selling property in Arizona, it’s vital that you work with a licensed real estate professional. You can contact the Arizona Department of Real Estate and Arizona Association of Realtors to find out more about the necessary qualifications for your Arizona real estate agent. You also want to have an experienced Arizona real estate attorney to protect your interest during each phase of the process.
Attorney Laura B. Bramnick is an experienced Arizona real estate attorney who has the expertise to safeguard your interests during every stage of your real estate transaction. If you are seeking an exceptional, client-driven real estate lawyer in Scottsdale, Phoenix, Sedona, and throughout the State of Arizona, contact Laura B. Bramnick to schedule your consultation.