Game show contestant headed to prison for reverse mortgage scam

Tonika Miller went on ‘Deal or No Deal’ with host Howie Mandel before she was arrested in a Redwood City fraud case. CNBC photo.
Tonika Miller went on ‘Deal or No Deal’ with host Howie Mandel before she was arrested in a Redwood City fraud case. CNBC photo.

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

A woman who appeared on the game show “Deal or No Deal” and won $400,000 while police were looking for her was sentenced Wednesday (Jan. 15) to three years and four months in prison for cheating a 66-year-old Redwood City woman out of her home in a reverse mortgage scam, a prosecutor said.

Tonika Miller, 34, of Studio City, had pleaded no contest to two counts of grand theft and filing a false document on Nov. 15. Miller’s case is next set for April 28, where the court will discuss a receivership for Miller’s game show winnings and potential restitution to her victim, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Al Serrato.

Miller appeared on an episode of “Deal or No Deal” that aired on June 12. On the show, Miller told host Howie Mandel that she loves playing the board game Monopoly with her family and that she plans to go all-in just like she does with her family. Ultimately, Miller won $400,000 and a 2018 Chrysler Pacifica on the game.

Miller was arrested over the summer, after which authorities learned about her TV appearance.

Miller was wanted in San Mateo County at the time of her “Deal or No Deal” appearance in connection to a scam she and actor Justin Hall, 37, of Van Nuys, allegedly pulled on a 66-year-old woman.

Reverse mortgage scam

The scam is believed to have begun on July 23, 2018, just a few weeks 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 Serrato.

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 Hall, Serrato 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, 2018, and paid off the late property taxes.

Sale price looked suspicious

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 and $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.

Miller “cleared everything up” by giving the victim another $1,000, according to the DA.

On Aug. 22, 2018, Hall sold the property to someone else for $997,000.

On Aug. 31, 2018, Miller went to the woman’s house with a U-Haul and tried to get her to move out, said Serrato. Miller brought a real estate agent with her to help the woman find a new home in Auburn.

Realtor calls the cops

However, the real estate agent became suspicious of Miller and called Redwood City police.

Officers came to the home and ordered Miller to leave, according to the DA’s office.

Hall was arrested earlier this year, and it was discovered that he has a Hollywood background, serving as a producer of a Dave Chapelle special and performing in a “Star Trek” movie.
Hall had a career as an actor, stunt-man and producer from 2002 to 2009, according to his IMDB page. He had bit parts in the 2009 Star Trek “The Future Begins” movie as a Starfleet security officer, and was an extra in “Dreamgirls,” “Akeelah and the Bee,” “The Terminal” and “Coach Carter.” Hall also did stunts for movies such as “The Italian Job” and “Spider-Man 3.”

Hall is out of jail on a $1.1 million bail bond and is set to appear in court on Jan. 24.