Lawyer Gets Two Years In Real Estate Scam
As a highly-respected and reputable San Diego real estate attorney, it pains me to admit that there are a few rotten apples in every barrel, and that includes the legal profession. I note with horror the recent sentencing of one Maurizio Lancia, 48, of San Diego, California to two and a quarter years in the federal lockup for real estate fraud. He plead guilty to a scam that fleeced lenders to the tune of $3.6 million. In addition, Lancia received a two-year term of supervised release and a restitution fine of $160,000. The presiding U.S. District Court judge was Alfred Covello.
James Bergenn served as Lancia’s lawyer. He stated that Mr. Lancia was “…a well regarded attorney with an unblemished reputation for 20 years [who] accepted responsibility for his role in one home loan wherein his employee’s son got the loan by representing that he made more money than he did. Attorney Lancia accepted his responsibility for not ensuring that the information was correct when he knew that the income stated was questionable. His sentence was for that crime, and for only that crime.”
Mr. Lancia operated a San Diego homes for sale mortgage brokerage firm called Royal Financial Services, LLC. The convicted lawyer failed to perform due diligence on loan application submitted by Jose Guzman Jr. Mr. Guzman basically made up the income information on the application, and Mr. Lancia did not question it. Mr. Guzman admitted his misdeed almost three years ago and has been awaiting sentence ever since.
Under federal sentencing recommendations, Judge Covello could have locked up Mr. Lancia for 27 to 33 months. Judge Covello was lenient, sentencing Mr. Lancia to the bottom of that range. The judge favored the less stiff sentence because the government was not able to prove that Mr. Lancia participated in a conspiracy.
In my colleague’s opinion, the federal guidelines for this crime are way too low. When one lawyer is convicted of fraud, the whole profession suffers. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen lawyers shunned at cocktail parties and school soccer matches whenever a high-profile fraud case involving lawyers was in the news. We rely on the trust of the public, and when any member of the profession breaks that trust, he or she should serve hefty prison time. In this case, my colleague would have loved to see a seven-year sentence and double the fine.