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San Francisco prosecutors have charged three more people in connection with an alleged scheme to defraud a woman out of three luxury condominiums worth $7.5 million. Last month, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office filed 16 felony counts against 45-year-old Winston Lum, of San Francisco, in whose name the deeds to the properties at One Rincon Hill were forged in January 2009, prosecutors said. The charges included grand theft, identity theft and forgery.
Lum and his alleged co-conspirators were then able to take out $2.2 million in loans against the properties from a bank in Southern California, according to the district attorney’s office. On Wednesday, the district attorney’s office charged three other men suspected in the plot — Melvin Emerich, 57, of San Jose, Jay Shah, 45, of Los Altos, and Kaushal Niroula, 29, of San Francisco — with multiple counts of grand theft, money laundering and conspiracy.
“The breathtaking scope, complexity and theatrics of this scam and these con men rivals any Hollywood movie,” District Attorney Kamala Harris said in a prepared statement. Niroula is suspected in a number of high-profile scams in the Bay Area and beyond. He is currently in custody in Riverside County, where he is among four men accused of defrauding and murdering an elderly Palm Springs man in 2008.
Niroula was earlier accused of stealing $300,000 worth of jewelry from the home of a Novato woman and of scamming a San Francisco art collector out of $400,000, both of which are also still active cases. Emerich and Shah were arrested Tuesday and remain in custody on $7.5 million and $10 million bail, respectively. According to prosecutors, in the One Rincon Hill scheme, the four men conspired to put the three condominiums in Lum’s name, then take out loans against the properties and launder the money through a shell company in Nevada and through a Swiss bank account.
Niroula and Lum also impersonated other people in order to get inside the condominiums, acquire keys to the units, and convince the bank they were the owners, prosecutors said. Shah and Emerich, an attorney, allegedly arranged the financing and set up the fake Nevada company. The alleged scheme unraveled when the real owner of the condominiums was told someone was trying to get into the units and claimed to have permission from the “owner, Mr. Lum,” prosecutors said.
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