Federal mortgage fraud case against Grass Valley man postponed again | TheUnion.com

Federal mortgage fraud case against Grass Valley man postponed again

John Michael DiChiara, the self-styled Archbishop of Shon-te-East-a alleged to have helped perpetrate a complex mortgage fraud scheme, may never stand trial.

DiChiara was arrested in September 2015 after being indicted by a federal grand jury for reportedly orchestrating a mortgage-elimination program that fraudulently altered the chain of title on residential properties, selling the properties and receiving the sales proceeds.

DiChiara was charged with conspiracy, bank fraud, false making of documents and money laundering. Six other people also were named in the scheme, most of whom have been found guilty or accepted plea agreements.

But the 60-year-old DiChiara, whose trial was set to start in May, has been stricken with a series of life-threatening medical events including a triple bypass and chronic kidney disease. A status conference has been set for mid-November.

DiChiara allegedly called himself the Archbishop of Shon-te-East-a, Walks With Spirit, and of the Pillow Foundation, a Utah corporation with a business address in Reno. Both groups claimed to be tax-exempt religious organizations, according to the federal indictment filed against DiChiara.

DiChiara and his co-defendants allegedly recruited homeowners whose homes were worth less than their mortgage, with the promise of relief from foreclosure. They allegedly often required homeowners to assign or convey their homes to Shon-te-East-a or the Pillow Foundation as a charitable donation, leading them to believe they could take those donations as tax deductions and that they had transferred legal responsibility over their mortgages.

The fraud often led to foreclosure proceedings. Short sales initiated by DiChiara and his codefendants resulted in unsuspecting buyers of properties with false deeds of trust, according to the indictment.

Federal prosecutors alleged DiChiara and his codefendants sold 37 properties, netting more than $8 million. An additional 97 properties reportedly went through some phase of the fraudulent “mortgage elimination program,” affecting more than $60 million in legitimate loans.

DiChiara’s trial had been postponed before, after he had a triple cardiac bypass in 2017. This spring, the FBI interviewed his health care providers and found a host of serious medical issues, according to court documents.

“Mr. DiChiara is currently physically incapable of attending and participating in trial,” records stated. He is set to return to court in Sacramento on Nov. 15.

Last year, George B. Larsen, 56, was sentenced to 10 years and one month in prison and ordered to pay $1,759,100 after he was convicted on one count of conspiracy and four counts of bank fraud. Larry Todt, 65, was found guilty of conspiracy and one count of bank fraud and was sentenced to over seven years in prison and ordered to pay over $3 million in restitution.

Michael Romano was sentenced to 37 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Laura Pezzi pleaded guilty to falsely making writings of lending associations and was sentenced to 49 months. Remus A. Kirkpatrick pleaded guilty to one count of falsely making writings of lending associations and is set for sentencing on June 28.

Only one codefendant — James Christopher Castle — is still awaiting trial.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.


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