MONEY
08/01/2012 12:01 pm ET

Suniti Shah And Supriti Soni, California Sisters, Plead Guilty To Role In $16 Million Real Estate Fraud

One group of real-estate fraudsters is keeping things all in the family.

Two sisters, Suniti Shah, 51, and Supriti Soni, 52, from the Newport Beach area in southern California, pleaded guilty on Friday to taking part in a $16 million scam, reports the Orange County Register. They will soon be joining their 74-year-old mother, Sushama Devi Lohia, who is already serving eight years in prison for her role in the operation.

Family members bought more than 15 properties with straw buyers' credit. A straw buyer, according to the Register, is someone whose credit history and personal information is used to buy a house in someone else's name. The fraudulent loans they obtained to purchase the homes were all approved by Washington Mutual bank.

Shah's husband, Dinesh Valjeebhai Shah, could be joining them soon -- his trial on similar charges is pending, reports the AP.

According to the Orange County District Attorney's office:

Between June 2006 and October 2009, Lohia, Soni, Suniti Shah, and Dinesh Shah obtained over 15 fraudulent loans on real estate properties in Orange County through the use of straw buyers’ credit. The defendants fabricated loan applications to reflect significantly higher incomes for the straw buyers, supplied altered bank statements to reflect the higher incomes, falsified employer information on loan documents, and forged the names and signatures of straw buyers on various deeds and loan documents.

As the OC Weekly reports, the fraud was exposed when a suspicious realtor went to authorities.

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