Crime

October 22, 2013

Former Modesto real estate broker pleads guilty to defrauding elderly home owners

The former owner of a Modesto real estate firm pleaded guilty Monday to seven fraud charges in a deal expected to bring eight years in federal prison. James Lee Lankford, 74, who previously owned Century 21-Apollo Realty, signed the plea agreement in late August, but illness delayed a formal resolution until this week.

The former owner of a Modesto real estate firm pleaded guilty Monday to seven fraud charges in a deal expected to bring eight years in federal prison.

James Lee Lankford, 74, who previously owned Century 21-Apollo Realty, signed the plea agreement in late August, but illness delayed a formal resolution until this week. He will be sentenced Jan. 27 by U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii, who will decide the appropriate prison term.

Lankford’s mortgage scheme duped elderly homeowners from Modesto and Hughson and lenders over an 11-year period, costing them more than $7 million.

“Such fraudulent behavior will not go undetected nor will it go unpunished,” said Michael P. Stephens, acting inspector general for the Federal Housing Finance Agency. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to dismantle such schemes and hold all involved accountable.”

The agency cooperated on the case with the Stanislaus County district attorney’s real estate fraud unit and the FBI.

Lankford’s husband, Jon Vance Lankford, who formerly went by the last name McDade, on Sept. 16 pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud in connection with the scheme and is expected to receive a one-day prison sentence.

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