For release on August 2, 2012

CONTACT:

Paul Colin, Deputy District Attorney
Real Estate Fraud Unit
408-792-2576

REAL ESTATE AGENT SUSPECTED OF PONZI SCAM   A Santa Clara County real estate agent faces 44 felony fraud charges for allegedly crafting a fake investment scheme in which she scammed about $1.2 million from clients.   Jill Marie Silvey, 50, is expected to enter a plea on Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, at 2 p.m. in department 23 of the Hall of Justice. She is in custody on $3 million bail. If convicted of all charges, she faces a sentence of up to 31 years.   “People looking to invest their money need to have verifications and safeguards, even when they are dealing with people that they trust,” Deputy District Attorney Paul Colin said. “A con artist’s expertise is in exploitation of trust.”   Experts say don’t offer or accept cash payments for real estate investments. Use an escrow company to transfer your money to the borrower and make sure you get a recorded deed of trust. Title insurance should confirm that the borrower actually owns the property and if there are any existing liens against the property. A licensed appraiser should report if the property is actually worth enough to protect your investment.   Prosecutors allege that from 2005 to 2011, Silvey convinced at least 13 different "investors" (victims) to lend their money to homeowners, in return for monthly interest payments. The loan was supposedly secured by the homes. Investigators believe that the homeowners knew nothing of the loans and Silvey forged their signatures. She paid back some investors with other investors’ money.   The scheme collapsed late last year when an investing couple knocked on the door of their supposed borrowers, and demanded their tardy payment. The borrowers knew nothing about the loan. Both bewildered couples then knocked on Silvey’s door. Suspecting they had been duped, they contacted the D.A.’s Real Estate Fraud unit. An investigation uncovered a dozen other victims with bogus loans. It also found that Silvey had falsely promised her own home as collateral for a $400,000 loan that she finagled from a couple she knew.   Silvey was arrested on June 27. Several of her victims are at least 65 years of age, so several elder fraud counts are included. Silvey is suspected to have spent the money on keeping the Ponzi scheme going and such luxuries as high-end vehicles, home furnishings, clothing and an expensive home remodeling project.   Anyone with information about the case is invited to contact D.A. Investigator Jodi Thomas at 408-792-2928.  

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