Three accused of real estate fraud involving $3.5 million La Canada Flintridge home

Detectives arrested three people Friday in connection with a complex real estate fraud scheme centering around a multi-million dollar La Canada Flintridge home, authorities said.
Saliya “Sal” DeSilva, 49, of Northridge, Nora Yefima, 50, of Santa Clarita and Vahe Hayrapetian, 45, of Burbank were each arrested at their homes Friday after being indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges of wire and bank fraud, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
The alleged scheme began in July of 2009 after the owner of a $3.5 million home on Gould Avenue in La Canada Flintridge defaulted on the mortgage, officials said. Bank of America then foreclosed and the property and took possession of it.
Posing as the home’s previous owner and presenting counterfeit documents, DeSilva contacted Bank of America and persuaded officials there that the foreclosure was improper, sheriff’s officials said.
The bank rescinded the foreclosure and DeSilva, who is a licensed real estate salesperson, “listed the property for sale without the consent or knowledge of the prior owner,” according to the sheriff’s department statement.
DeSilva sold the house in 2011 through a fraudulent short sale for a fraction of it’s market value, officials said. Fraudulent documents were used to move the transaction forward.
The buyer obtained $1.5 million in loans for the purchase, which were wire transferred to Oshana Escrow in Encino, owned by Yefima.
Yefima is accused of sending false documents to a title insurance company, Fidelity National Title Company, as well as wiring a small portion of the $1.5 million loan to the title insurance company while dispersing more than $1 million to “several other parties who had nothing to do with the transaction,” according to the statement.
In order to secure the fraudulent $1.5 million loan, authorities allege loan broker Vahe Hayrapetian provided falsified documents to the lender.
The new buyer of the Gould Avenue home defaulted on the allegedly fraudulent loan, officials said. But since Bank of America never approved the short sale and is still owed $3.5 million, there is not enough equity in the home to reimburse the subsequent lender for the $1.5 million lost in the defaulted loan.
The title insurance company may end up having to pay for the discrepancy, officials added.
The investigation was carried out by detectives from the sheriff’s Real Estate Fraud Team, in partnership with the FBI.
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Teen struck by motorcycle in La Canada Flintridge

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — A 14-year-old La Canada Flintridge boy was hit by a motorcycle when he tried to run across an intersection Friday night, deputies said.
Lt. Brian Fitch said the teen’s injuries included a broken leg and a collapsed lung. The motorcyclist sustained minor injuries, he added.
The collision happened 10:07 p.m. at Chevy Chase Drive and Foothill Boulevard.
Fitch said after being struck, the boy was carried by the motorcycle about 50 feet until he was thrown off or fell off. The motorcycle then hit a curb and the rider was thrown off, according to the lieutenant.
Both were taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital.
None of the injuries were believed to be life-threatening, Sgt. Randy Tuinstra said.
The initial indicated that the injured teen and another young man were jaywalking across the street when the boy was struck, he said.
– Staff Report
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Officials ID motorcyclist killed in Angeles Crest Highway crash

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — Authorities Sunday identified a 38-year-old Valley Village man who died Saturday in a motorcycle crash on Angeles Crest Highway.
Dan Cretu died at a hospital shortly after the 11:20 a.m. crash at near mile marker 27 of Angeles Crest Highway, about four miles north of the 210 Freeway, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Lt. Cheryl MacWillie said.
Cretu was riding a 2012 Aprilia motorcycle when, “for reasons still under investigation,” the motorcycle veered off the right side of the roadway and struck an Angeles National Forest sign, California Highway Patrol officials said in a written statement.
The rider was thrown from his motorcycle and landed on a dirt and grass embankment, officials said. He was rushed by helicopter to Huntington Hospital in Pasadena where he was pronounced dead.
The crash is being investigated by the Altadena office of the CHP. Anyone with information was asked to contact the office at 626-296-8100.
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Motorcyclist killed in crash on Angeles Crest Highway

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — A motorcyclist died Saturday after crashing on Angeles Crest Highway, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The rider, initially described as a man in his late 30s, was pronounced dead at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena just over an hour after the 11:22 a.m. solo-motorcycle crash at mile marker 27.65 of Angeles Crest Highway, about four miles north of the 210 Freeway, CHP Officer Christian Cracraft said.
The circumstances of the crash were being investigated by the Altadena office of the CHP.
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UPDATED: Detectives investigate man’s death in Angeles National Forest

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST — The body of a man was discovered early Wednesday near the wreckage of a car that had gone over the side of Angeles Crest Highway in the forest north of La Canada Flintridge, authorities said.
The body, initially described as that of a 41-year-old man from Los Angeles, was found after passers-by spotted the crash scene near mile marker 31 of Angeles Crest Highway about 6 a.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Angela Shepherd said.
The man had been thrown from the car in the crash, she said. He appeared to have been the only person inside the car.
Though the crash scene was first spotted Wednesday morning, the crash likely occurred sometime earlier, Shepherd said. It was unclear when.
A Los Angeles County Fire Department fire engine responding to the incident collided with a sheriff’s search and rescue vehicle just north of the fatal crash scene, according to sheriff’s officials and California Highway Patrol logs. A firefighter was treated for injuries, the extent of which were not available.
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UPDATED: Motorcycle crash prompts closure of Angeles Crest Highway in Angeles National Forest

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST — Authorities shut down both lanes of Angeles Crest Highway north of La Canada Flintridge Sunday after a motorcycle crash.
The crash was reported about 10:30 a.m. at mile marker 37.6 of Angeles Crest Highway, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Angela Shepherd said.
The California Highway Patrol issued a Sig Alert for both directions of the road, which was lifted about an hour later.
Initially reported as a motorcycle over the side, the crash involved the motorcycle and one other vehicle, CHP officials said. The motorcyclist was flown to a hospital by helicopter as a precaution, though the injuries were not believed to be severe.
Further details on the crash were not available Sunday afternoon.
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Motorcyclist killed in collision with U.S. Forest Service vehicle on Angeles Crest Highway

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST — A 30-year-old motorcyclist died Thursday following a collision with a U.S. Forest Service SUV on Angeles Crest Highway north of La Canada Flintridge, authorities said.
The name of the man, a Mar Vista resident, was not released Friday pending confirmation that his family had been notified, Los Angeles County coroner’s officials said.
He died at a hospital shortly after the 5 p.m. crash near mile marker 29.6 of Angeles Crest Highway, near Woodwardia Canyon, California Highway Patrol officials said.
The rider was headed northbound on his 2011 Triumph motorcycle when, “for unknown reasons, (the rider) lost control of his motorcycle and slid across the lanes into oncoming traffic,” CHP Officer Kevin Denmon said.
Both the rider and motorcycle collided with a southbound U.S. Forest Service SUV being driven by a 34-year-old forest service employee, Denmon said.
Rescuers rushed the injured motorcyclist to Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, where he was pronounced dead at 6:31 p.m., Denmon said.
The forest service employee driving the SUV was not hurt, he added.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation by the CHP’s Altadena office.
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UPDATED: Body found along Angeles Crest Highway identified

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE — Coroner’s officials Friday identified a man found dead alongside Angeles Crest Highway north of La Canada Flintridge in an apparent homicide.
The body of Noe Vasquez, 35, of Canoga Park was found about 5:20 a.m. near mile marker 27.5 of Angeles Crest Highway, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said.
Though an autopsy was pending, homicide detectives found evidence of a shooting at the scene and were investigating the death as a homicide, sheriff’s and coroner’s officials said.
A passing motorist spotted Vasquez’s body lying next to a guard rail and called authorities.
The investigation is ongoing.
According to county booking records, he was arrested April 24th on suspicion of a misdemeanor by the Los Angeles Police Department’s South Bureau and released the following day after a conviction for violating a gang injunction.
Los Angeles County Superior Court records indicate Vasquez had a long criminal history dating back to 1995.
He was convicted of violating a court order in Van Nuys Superior Court in December of 2009, illegal gun possession at the Van Nuys court in 2006 and 2005, harassment in San Fernando Superior Court in 2000, domestic violence in the Van Nuys court in 2000, drug possession in Van Nuys court in 1995 and grand theft in Van Nuys court in 1995.
Anyone with information was asked to call the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by calling L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
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Romanian man indicted in JPL computer hacking case

LOS ANGELES — A Romanian man already convicted in his home country of hacking into NASA computers at the the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge has been indicted in the United States, officials announced Wednesday.
Robert Butkya, 25, of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, was indicted by a federal grand jury on allegations of unauthorized impairment of a protected computer, U.S. Department of Justice officials said in a written statement. The alleged hacking took place in December.
Butkya used the moniker “Iceman” as he hacked into, and placed malicious software on, 25 computers that were part of NASA’s “Atmospheric Infrared Sounder Program — designed to support climate research and improve weather forecasting capabilities — in December, according to the DOJ.
In at least one instance, “He used the computers to launch attacks against other computers,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Silber, who is prosecuting the American case, said.
It was not believed Butkya was trying to steal information from the system, Silber added.
In many cases, he said, the principal motivation of hackers is pride — to show off their prowess at accessing restricted systems.
“As a result of Butkya’s alleged conduct, researchers were unable to use the computers for more than two months while NASA removed the malicious code in the machines, restored data and took steps to prevent further access by hackers,” according to the statement. “NASA sustained more than $500,000 in damages, which includes the costs of completing the work on the computers and the time lost to scientific researchers.”
A Romanian court has already tried and convicted Butkya, sentencing him to three years in prison and seven years of probation, officials said.
Once he’s released from Romanian prison, he will have to be brought before a judge in the U.S. for the case to process, Silber explained.
Since Romania will not extradite in such a case, he said, prosecution in the United States will depend on with Butkya coming to America voluntarily, or being arrested in another country that will extradite him.
“As a practical matter, he has to come to the United States (to face trial),” Silber said.
If convicted in the U.S., Butkya faces up to 10 years in federal prison.
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Man killed in weekend hiking accident in forest identified

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST — Authorities have released the name of an 18-year-old man killed Saturday in a hiking accident in the Angeles National Forest north of La Canada Flintridge.
Vigen Sarkisyan of Tujunga was pronounced dead shortly before 3 p.m. after he and two other young men were found to have taken a fall near mile marker 41.9 of Angeles Crest Highway, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner’s Chief of Operations Craig Harvey said.
The two other men Sarkisyan was hiking with were hospitalized with serious injuries, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
The details of the accident were under investigation, however it initially appeared the men fell into a steep culvert and tumbled about 600 feet, sheriff’s Sgt. Debra Herman said.
One of the injured men managed to climb back up to a roadway and seek help, officials said.
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