A Santa Clara County real estate agent being held on $3 million bail for a fake investment scheme that finangled $1.2 million out of homeowners is scheduled to appear in court Monday.
Jill Marie Silvey, 50, was arrested June 27 on 44 felony fraud charges that took place over a six-year period. .
Most of the victims identified so far are from San Jose, but others reportedly live in Saratoga, Morgan Hill, Sacramento and Redding. Silvey’s charges also include elder counts because several of her victims are at least 65 years old, according to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Paul Colin.
The scheme, which began in 2005, reportedly collapsed toward the end of 2011 after two victims attempted to contact their supposed borrowers—and then Silvey—to reclaim a tardy payment. After futile attempts, the couple reportedly contacted the county’s Real Estate Fraud unit, Colin states in a prepared report.
The fraud unit pursued an investigation, which reportedly “uncovered a dozen other victims with bogus loans.”
“Prosecutors allege that Silvey convinced at least 13 different ‘investors’ to lend their money to homeowners in return for monthly interest payments,” Colin states. “The loan was supposedly secured by the homes. Investigators believe the homeowners knew nothing of the loans, and [that] Silvey forged their signatures. She paid back some investors with other investors’ money.”
The fraud unit’s investigation also revealed that Silvey finagled a $400,000 loan from a couple by falsely promising her home as collateral, Colin states.
Investigators suspect that the finagled funds were used to keep the Ponzi scheme afloat, as well as to buy “such luxuries as high-end vehicles, home furnishings, clothing and an expensive home remodeling project.”
A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation where investors are paid their own money from the initial investment or the money of other victims. The victims believe the money is generated from their investment with a person or organization, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Silvey is scheduled to enter a plea at 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 6, in department 23 at the Hall of Justice in San Jose.
“If convicted of all charges, she faces a sentence of up to 31 years,” Colin states.
Anyone with information regarding the Ponzi scheme is asked to contact Santa Clara County District Attorney Investigator Jodi Thomas at 408-792-2928.
How Homeowners Can Avoid Scams
Individuals who are considering an investment need verifications and safeguards, Colin states, “even when they are dealing with people they trust.”
Below are some tips detailing safe investment procedures, courtesy of Colin.
- Experts say they don’t offer or accept cash payments for real estate investments.
- Use an escrow company to transfer your money to the borrower and make sure you get a recorded deed of trust.
- Title insurance should confirm that the borrower actually owns the property and if there are any existing liens against the property.
- A licensed appraiser should report if the property is actually worth enough to protect your investment.