Huntington Beach man sentenced to prison for “builder bailout” scheme
A Huntington Beach man was sentenced Monday to nine years in federal prison for his role in a “builder bailout” real estate scheme in which more than 100 condominium units were fraudulently purchased across the country.
Momoud Aref Abaji, 36, was convicted in 2016 of multiple felony counts of bank fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion following a string of foreclosures that led to an estimated $10 million in losses for lenders.
Abaji and several co-defendants who worked with Excel Investments and related companies in Santa Ana and Irvine targeted struggling condominiums for purchase, negotiating to buy the units from developers in return for “hefty commissions,” according to federal prosecutors.
Abaji and the others were accused of using straw buyers and false information such as fake employment and income records to fabricate documents such as altered W2 forms, pay stubs and bank statements. Their lenders were left with millions in losses after the loans went into default and the properties went into foreclosure.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford during Monday’s hearing at the federal courthouse in Santa Ana described Abaji’s sentence as fair, although he noted that it was lower than requested by prosecutors.
“I see many people hurt along the way, with significant losses,” the judge said of Abaji’s actions.
Abaji, on the advice of his attorney, opted not to speak during the sentencing hearing. His attorney unsuccessfully lobbied the judge for a shorter sentence, at one point asking him to take into account the fact that Abaji, who was born in Syria, is likely to be deported after serving his prison time.