Penn Valley real estate agent’s license in jeopardy after federal conviction
April 16, 2018
Elijah Aizenberg has been a licensed real estate agent in California since 2014. He currently works as an office manager for Intero Real Estate in Penn Valley and sold more than $2 million in real estate transactions in 2017, according to Intero's website.
But Aizenberg is in danger of losing his real estate license for good, after it was discovered that under his former legal name, he pleaded guilty in January to a federal charge of felony bank fraud.
According to Placer County records, Aizenberg legally changed his name in 2011 from Elijah Simonyan. He did not disclose that on his application to the state Bureau of Real Estate, however.
When Aizenberg applied for licensure in 2013, fingerprint clearances were received from both the Department of Justice and FBI, said California Department of Consumer Affairs spokeswoman Joyia Emard. His license was issued April 8, 2014. According to Emard, the state bureau had not been aware of the name change.
"All of his submitted documentation is under the name in which he is currently licensed, including his legal presence document (U.S. passport)," Emard said. "He answered 'No' to 'Have you used any other names (i.e., maiden name, former married names, AKAs, etc.)?' on his application."
On Feb. 26, the bureau filed an accusation against Aizenberg requesting the suspension or revocation of his license.
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The accusation notes that Aizenberg, also known as Simonyan, was convicted on Jan. 19 of bank fraud. The fraud "is a felony and a crime that bears a substantial relationship to the qualifications, functions or duties of a real estate licensee," the accusation states.
Being convicted of a substantially related crime, as well as fraud or dishonest dealing, are grounds for the loss of a real estate license, wrote Supervising Special Investigator Tricia Parkhurst. A hearing has been set by the Office of Administrative Hearings for July 31.
Aizenberg's license was set to expire on April 7. According to the Bureau of Real Estate, the renewal of his license has been delayed and the expiration date of the current license has been extended until the accusation is resolved.
Details of federal charges
Aizenberg, at the time known as Simonyan, reportedly was involved in a convoluted mortgage fraud in 2007.
According to court records, Simonyan recruited co-defendants Stella Avestiyan and Artur Arshakyan in a scheme to defraud Bank of America of nearly half a million dollars. Simonyan helped the couple obtain a $490,000 home equity line of credit for a property in Copperopolis that they did not actually own. They created false documentation to make it appear Arshakyan had title to the property and that the existing liens had been paid off. They then obtained the loan, opened a bank account for the proceeds and siphoned off the line of credit before defaulting.
It was not clear from the indictment as to how much money Simonyan netted from the scam. Two checks totaling a little more than $50,000 were made payable to EMS Construction, a shell company reportedly used for laundering money, according to court records. Simonyan allegedly controlled the bank account for EMS Construction, which was used to receive and distribute the fraudulently obtained funds.
Simonyan was indicted in 2011 on charges of bank fraud and transactions involving criminally derived property. He took a plea agreement to one count of bank fraud in September 2017 and was sentenced in January to time served and two years probation.
According to court documents, this was not the only criminal case involving Simonyan. He reportedly received $60,000 for arranging a fraudulent deal in 2007 for another couple, in which a mortgage for $1.2 million was obtained on a Weimar property and $180,000 was used to pay EMS Construction for work that was not done. Simonyan was also involved in a case that reportedly involved nearly 20 fraudulent home loans. He was not charged in either of those cases, however.
Aizenberg denies any wrongdoing
According to Aizenberg, his involvement in the federal case that resulted in his conviction was limited to depositing checks.
"There's nothing I've done wrong," he said.
Aizenberg said he took his biological father's last name due to concerns for his safety, and that his new identity was supposed to have been protected.
Court documents appear to bear that out, with a filed objection to the inclusion of his residential address and aliases on a pre-sentence report.
On Friday, Aizenberg said his attorney would be providing documentation explaining why he did not disclose the name change at the July hearing.
John Miller, the broker for Intero Real Estate, said Aizenberg came to him about a potential legal issue at the end of last year, which had nothing to do with the Bureau of Real Estate.
"I checked his license status when I hired him and he was in good standing with the bureau then and is still an active licensed agent today," he said. "Elijah has been with Intero since 2014 and has been a hard-working, honorable realtor. He gets great reviews from his clients and his co-workers in the Penn Valley office."
Miller said he's not happy how the story came to bear.
"I am very suspicious of anonymous packages to further someone's private agenda," Miller said. "I believe that is how The Union became aware the Bureau's pending hearing and possible disciplinary actions."
Miller added the real estate industry is governed by the Bureau of Real Estate, which has always been very strict with its standards.
"We will rely on the Bureau of Real Estate to discipline and govern our agents when it comes to serious legal matters," he said.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at email@example.com.
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