The FBI says it's working with a key player in an East Bay mortgage fraud scheme that contributed to the housing bubble and collapse.
The former president of Discovery Sales Ayman Shahid took a plea agreement. The FBI said the investigation is ongoing, so only this particular plea deal is being disclosed and it draws a connection between a prominent developer and his family to some $200 million in questionable home sales.
FBI agents raided two offices in 2010 that housed Seeno family businesses.
"The company is the largest privately-owned construction company in the Bay Area for building homes, so it's huge. They build a lot of homes," said Michele Ernst, a public affairs specialist for the FBI.
Ayman Shahid worked for Discovery Sales, a company created to sell homes built by Discovery builders.
"Basically, this is a mortgage scam where they were misleading bank underwriters about the true value of homes," Ernst said.
For example, a home is listed at $700,000. The seller gives $50,000 back to the buyer without the lender knowing, or perhaps caring. The sale price is then recorded as $700,000 when it should be only $650,000, thus inflating the market.
"That's something that I saw a few times as listing agent. I saw offers come in that were structured like that and frankly I always held them suspect," said Jason Crouch, a real estate broker with All East Bay Properties.
"This is one example of how the FBI is dedicated to prosecuting those individuals who are responsible for over inflating the price of homes, which ultimately led to the mortgage bubble," Ernst said.
Attempts to reach the Seeno family and Discovery Homes were unsuccessful.