Three real estate agents charged in scam over mortgages

Three Modesto real estate agents were arraigned in Stanislaus County Superior Court on Thursday afternoon on a host of criminal charges stemming from an alleged mortgage lending scheme that may have netted more than $2 million.

A 68-count criminal complaint filed by the district attorney's office alleges that Eric Braun, Noah Adam Yates, Douglas Eugene Wallick and seven accomplices created false documents indicating that loans to three properties had been paid so "straw buyers" could get new loans and pocket the proceeds.

Deputy District Attorney Marlisa Ferreira said authorities made arrests in the past three days at the close of a yearlong investigation. She said such schemes take place nationwide and are increasingly common in today's troubled real estate market.

"We're seeing it more and more every day," she said.

A host of loans that allegedly were obtained by fraudulent means and add up to more than $8.3 million is outlined in the complaint.

Braun, 28, Wallick, 32, and Yates, 29, were represented by attorneys and pleaded not guilty after they were apprised of the charges they face.

Attorney Jakrun Sodhi represents Yates, who is charged with 53 felonies. Sodhi asked Judge Ricardo Córdova to reduce his client's bail, saying Yates is not a flight risk and has been trying to cooperate with authorities for the past year.

The prosecutor took issue with that notion, saying Yates was the point man in the scheme, taking the lead in preparing fraudulent loan documents.

Bail remains $435,000

The judge said Yates' bail will remain at $435,000, but he lowered bail for Braun and Wallick. Braun is charged with 63 felonies, and Wallick is charged with 15 felonies. Both are held in lieu of $70,000 bail.

The judge also appointed lawyers to represent the other defendants, or gave them time to hire an attorney.

Jearod Robinson, 34, of Ceres is charged with 18 felonies, and his bail is set at $125,000.

Elizabeth Marcela Ayhens, 24, of Stockton is charged with two felonies, and her bail is set at $35,000.

Brian Heytz, 32, of Ceres is charged with one felony, and his bail is set at $10,000.

Darin Eric Abell, 41, of Turlock is charged with nine felonies, and his bail is set at $105,000.

Three defendants were absent.

Dawna Lea Abell, 39, of Turlock is charged with nine felonies and was previously released on her own recognizance.

Nicholas Matthew Ayhens, 24, of Modesto is charged with two felonies and was previously released on $35,000 bail.

Arnold Veraga Rodriguez, 32, of Modesto is charged with two felonies and has not been arrested.

Most of the defendants are scheduled to return to court Tuesday.

Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at sherendeen@modbee.com or 578-2338.