A 43-year-old former real estate salesman who pleaded guilty in October 2017 avoided prison time Wednesday by paying $188,000 in restitution to his Orange County victims, his attorney said.
Agustin Iran Bello pleaded guilty Oct. 20, 2017, to single felony counts each of grand theft and attempting to file a false or forged instrument while admitting a sentencing enhancement for aggravated white collar crime exceeding $500,000. Multiple other felony charges were dismissed on Wednesday.
Bello faces three years and eight months in prison, however, if he violates terms of informal probation over the next three years.
Bello originally agreed to plead guilty in a deal that included six years behind bars, his attorney Michael Molfetta said. However, he paid off $188,000 in restitution, so the sentence was reduced to three years and eight months and was suspended if he stays out of trouble, Molfetta said.
When Bello was charged in 2015 prosecutors said he ripped off several Orange County homeowners of more than $1 million in a short-sale scheme.
Bello was a salesman for ReMax Realty working to procure homes for Jo Cal 1st Investments when he conducted the scheme from June 2010 through March 2011, according to court papers.
The scheme was uncovered during an investigation by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and FBI of Jo Cal 1st, Orange County District Attorney’s Office investigator Donald Willie said in court papers.
“Bello assisted in the conspiracy to obtain and sell homes to victims that were not his to sell,” Willie alleged in court papers. “He assisted in selling the homes for cash as short sales or investment properties that were reported as being purchased by a private investor.
“He participated in finding victim buyers for these properties and selling the same properties over and over to different investors.”
Bello persuaded residents he could short-sell the properties and hand them signed grant deeds, which were falsely notarized, Willie wrote.
“Not one bank ever received money owed to them from the sale of their properties,” Willie said in the court papers. “None of the banks that owned the homes were even aware their properties were being sold.
“Bello assisted in defrauding hundreds of thousands of dollars from multiple victim homeowners, investors and banks. The total loss is over $1 million. These thefts caused some victims to be sued and suffer extreme financial loss.”
One property was in Costa Mesa and another was in Santa Ana, according to court papers.