BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
Prosecutors yesterday charged two Southern California residents with conning a 66-year-old woman out of her Redwood City home in a reverse mortgage scam.
Justin Rodgers Hall, 37, of Van Nuys, and Tonika Lynette Miller, 33, of Studio City, allegedly targeted the woman, who was about to lose her home because of unpaid property taxes, said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
Rodgers Hall pleaded not guilty Tuesday (Jan. 15) to charges of filing a false document, grand theft, money laundering, burglary, elder abuse and an aggravated white collar enhancement, Wagstaffe said.
Rodgers Hall is credited on his IMDb page as having a bit part in the 2009 film “Star Trek” and other movies, Bay City News reported.
Miller remains at large.
The story begins on July 23, just before the tax collector was to auction the victim’s home. That day Miller took the woman to Applebee’s, bought her two margaritas and then offered her a $500,000 reverse mortgage, according to Wagstaffe.
The reverse mortgage, Miller told the woman, would allow her to live on the property until she died. When the woman agreed, Miller gave her $1,000 in cash and had her sign a grant deed in favor of Rex Regum LLC, which is owned by co-defendant Hall, Wagstaffe said.
The deed claims that the woman was paid $800,000 for her home, but she says that she never received the money, nor did she know what she was signing at Applebee’s. Hall recorded the deed on July 23, and paid off the late property taxes.
But something looked suspicious. An employee in the county Recorder’s Office noticed that the $800,000 was far below the market value of the house, which was assessed to be between $1.5 million to $1.7 million. So the recorder’s office contacted the DA to look into the situation.
DA’s Inspector Dave Wilson interviewed Miller about her role in the transaction. A few days after that initial interview, Miller told Wilson that she “cleared everything up” with the victim.
What Miller did was give the victim another $1,000, according to the DA.
On Aug. 22, Hall sold the property to someone else for $997,000. He allegedly transferred the money from the sale through different bank accounts.
On Aug. 31, Miller went to the woman’s house with a U-Haul and tried to get her to move out, said Wagstaffe. Miller brought a real estate agent with her to help the woman find a new home in Auburn.
However, the real estate agent became suspicious of Miller and called the Redwood City police.
Officers came to the home and ordered Miller to leave, according to the DA’s office.
So far, only Hall has been arrested by police. They’re still looking for Miller.
Each could get about 10 years in prison if found guilty of the fraud, money laundering and theft charges they face.
Wagstaffe said his office is working on tracking down the $997,000 that the third party used to buy the house and is trying to resolve the issue about who ought to live there.
However, the new buyer is saying that he owns the home outright and is attempting to evict the victim from the home.
Hall is in jail on $1.1 million bail. He will be back in court on Jan. 18.
Way to mislead the readers! Your headline makes it sound like this is an issue reverse mortgage borrowers need to be wary of when in fact, it is a fraud and elder abuse issue that really has nothing to do with reverse mortgages. These thieves had no intention or ability to even originate a reverse mortgage and just happened to use that loan term, a couple of margaritas and a total borrower naivete when it comes to all things financial to get the homeowner to sign her property over to the bad guys. Thieves like this have been looking to steal people’s equity or property since the days of claim jumping and before, and they prey on the old and weak. To call this a “reverse mortgage” scam is a disservice to the reader. There was never a reverse mortgage involved. It was always an equity theft scam, but hey, that just doesn’t have the same grabbing headline does it, Emily?
I agree, not really a reverse mortgage scam. That said, both these perps belong in prison. And for the man who says he now “owns” the victim’s house, good luck with that. Since the property was acquired by defrauding the victim, I bet the courts order it restored to her. The purchaser will be SOL trying to recover his money from Hall.