3 Modestans are arrested in mortgage scam

The longtime owner of a Modesto real estate company and a Modesto obstetrician were arrested this week on suspicion of mortgage fraud.

Investigators with the Stanislaus County district attorney's office arrested James Lee Lankford, 69, who established Century 21 Apollo more than 26 years ago, and Dr. Dennise Ann Davis, 55, an obstetrician with Sutter Gould Medical Foundation in Modesto. Stelios Papadopoulos, 74, a Century 21 broker who works with Lankford, also was arrested.

Lankford was arrested Tuesday, and Davis and Papadopoulos on Thursday. All live in Modesto.

According to an affidavit filed with the Stanislaus County clerk by the district attorney's office:

Lankford helped Davis obtain a $22,400 second mortgage on a $112,000 home she was buying in 1993. The first lender, American Savings Bank, was unaware of the second mortgage and thought Davis was putting her own earnest money down on the loan.

The lender on the second mortgage, Jewel Young, died in 1995; the next year, Davis stopped making payments. Davis sold the house in 1999 for $125,000, after Lankford, Davis and Papadopoulos filed fraudulent documents eliminating the second mortgage debt. The documents had the forged signature of Young, four years after her death. The documents were notarized by Papadopoulos, and also signed by Lankford.

The incident came to light early this year when Young's nephew found the original loan documents in storage and went to a title company for help.

The three suspects are charged with forgery, filing a fraudulent document with the county recorder, providing false information to a lender to obtain a mortgage loan and two counts of grand theft. Papadopoulos faces a sixth count of deed-of-trust fraud. The three were not in custody Thursday night, according to the county jail's Web site.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or 578-2390. Staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at tmoran@modbee.com or 578-2349.