LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Federal authorities say three Southern California men have been indicted for allegedly running a scam involving short sales that caused more than $10 million in losses.

KNX 1070’s Mike Landa reports authorities said the case involves identity theft, creating phony bank documents and bribing bank insiders.

Atiqullah Nabizada, 29, of Coto de Caza,  and Kenneth Moore, 49, of Tustin, were arrested Thursday at their homes after a grand jury returned two indictments charging them and a third defendant – 32-year-old Ahmed Tariq Asghari, of Sherman Oaks – with fraud violations and identity theft in connection with a variety of schemes using real or fake short sale real estate transactions and home loans.

short sale bentleys 3 Indicted In $10M Short Sale, Identity Theft Scams

(credit: FBI)

Federal search warrants were executed at homes and business in Los Angeles and Orange counties in connection with the schemes. During the searches, agents seized more than $1.7 million held in bank accounts, $548,937 in cash, two Bentleys and a Mercedes, and various jewels, including diamond-encrusted watches, officials said.

short sale cash 3 Indicted In $10M Short Sale, Identity Theft Scams

(credit: FBI)

“This is a big case for the FBI in Los Angeles, focusing on defrauding homeowners, banks, lenders, real estate schemes targeting distressed homeowners and short sale properties,” said FBI Special Agent Rich Ryan.

The defendants preyed on distressed homeowners, claiming to have insiders working at the bank, who, in exchange for cash, would authorize short sales for far less than fair market value, according to court documents. At least twice, the defendants used short sale approval letters that had been entirely fabricated.

The defendants also allegedly assumed the identities of property owners and sold and refinanced their properties without authority. In one case, a home owned by a Saudi Arabia resident was transferred multiple times and resulted in more than $1 million in losses, officials said.

As a result of the schemes, federal officials said home buyers and investors bought homes they believed had clear titles but were actually devalued and subject to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of liens.

Nabizada and Moore were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and face a maximum penalty of 22 years in prison. Asghari, who was arrested Friday in Miami Beach, was charged with attempted bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. He faces a maximum penalty of 32 years in prison.

Investigators believe the trio may have more victims. Anyone who believes they may have been a victim can call the FBI at 888-226-8443.

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