A Van Nuys man pleaded guilty Monday to orchestrating a $17 million real estate fraud scheme that preyed on distressed homeowners.
Michael “Mickey” Henschel, 70, is expected to be sentenced Aug. 12 on one federal count of mail fraud, a felony that carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As part of his plea agreement, Henschel agreed to forfeit money and property collected through the fraud scheme, including more than $100,000 in cash seized from a bank account and various residential properties in the San Fernando Valley, Glendale and Pasadena.
The scheme generated more than $17 million in profits and caused homeowners — mostly elderly — to suffer about $10 million in losses when they lost title to their homes and were defrauded into giving Henschel and his co-conspirators money as part of the scam. Henschel also caused losses to mortgage lenders and purchasers of foreclosed properties, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors said Henschel orchestrated the scheme with co-defendants to trick homeowners into signing fraudulent deeds on their properties, then used the bogus deeds to extort money, charge illegal fees to delay foreclosure and eviction actions, and steal some homes outright.
When Henschel was arrested in March 2018, he was already under indictment in a previous foreclosure-avoidance and bankruptcy fraud scam, federal prosecutors said.
Four co-conspirators — Camerino “Mino” Islas, 42, of North Hollywood; Claudia “Jessica” Islas, 43, of Reseda; Juan Carlos Velasquez, 44, of Sylmar; and Eugene “Gene” Fulmer, 84, of Encino — all recently pleaded guilty in the case and are scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 26.