A Modesto man pleaded guilty Monday to federal wire and mail fraud charges stemming from two real estate schemes investigated by the FBI and the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.
A man answering the phone at Tony Huy Havens’ store on McHenry Avenue, Emperor Electronics, said Havens, 42, had not returned from court when The Modesto Bee called seeking comment on the conviction and the store’s future.
During the real estate crash of 2008, Havens preyed on golf course and casino developers in eight states, mostly in the South, who were “desperate for financing to keep their projects from foreclosure,” his plea deal reads. He promised a combined $1.1 billion to 15 victims and collected at least $241,750 in advance fees wired to a Modesto bank, the document says.
$1.1 billion Combined amount promised by Tony Huy Havens to megadevelopers
$0 What they received
$241,750 What they wired to Havens, who pocketed the money, his plea deal says
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In a separate 2006 scam, Havens agreed to buy homes at certain prices in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties while reporting much higher sales prices to lenders, pocketing the difference.
Havens pleaded guilty to one count in both indictments in exchange for prosecutors dropping 28 counts in the first and three in the second. Together, victims lost about $823,932, a portion going to Havens.
In the second scam, the document says, Havens used names of in-laws, without their knowledge, to buy a home in northeast Modesto for $780,000 but told a lender that the sale price was higher, clearing $88,500 for himself, the document says.
Havens previously managed the former Sin City nightclub in downtown Modesto. He was convicted in 2003 of impersonating a notary public and in 2008 of swindling $208,000 from victims throughout Stanislaus County in another fraud scheme. While awaiting trial in the latter case, he peddled a phony story about ties with a wealthy Hong Kong investor to big-project developers seeking multimillion-dollar loans, The Bee previously reported.
Asking in July how he might repay victims if convicted, Havens had told The Bee, “It’s like bleeding a rock.”
His sentencing is set for Jan. 11. Such fraud charges can fetch federal prison terms as high as 20 years, but prosecutors agreed to recommend less in light of the plea deal.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390