"Dark Prince" Accomplices Found Guilty in Rincon Hill Scam
|The Dark Prince|
District Attorney George Gascón announced today that after a six-month trial, Winston Lum and Jay Shah, both 48, were found guilty of multiple felonies including money-laundering, conspiracy, and grand theft.
Lum and Shah are two of five defendants who devised a sophisticated scheme to transfer a woman's three condominiums at One Rincon Hill, and orchestrate the multi-million-dollar illegal loan against the property, Gascón said.
See also: SF Weekly Cover Story on the Dark Prince
"This case illustrates the depths to which scam artists can devise a sophisticated scheme to defraud unsuspecting victims of millions of dollars," Gascón said. "The guilty verdicts send a message that white collar crime continues to be a top priority for my office.
"This year, our Mortgage and Investment Unit has successfully prosecuted nine defendants responsible for defrauding over 45 victims out of over $5.5 million," he added.
Shah was charged with 13 felony counts, including grand theft, money laundering, forgery, filing forged documents, and conspiracy. He was found guilty on all charges. He faces additional jail time under California's Aggravated White Collar Crime Enhancement. He faces over 35 years in state prison. Shah posted $7.5 million bail, but didn't appear in court yesterday. His whereabouts are unknown, which means he's officially a fugitive.
Lum was charged with 15 felony counts, including grand theft, identity theft, procuring or offering false or forged instruments for record, filing of false or forged documents related to single-family residences, and attempted grand theft. He was found guilty of six felony counts of filing false documents and grand theft. He faces additional jail time under California's Aggravated White Collar Crime Enhancement.
Melvin Emerich, 60, was charged with eight felony counts, including money laundering, conspiracy, and grand theft. He has also been charged under California's Aggravated White Collar Crime Enhancement. The jury hung on the charges of conspiracy, money laundering, and grand theft. He was found not guilty of filing false documents. He will appear in court on Oct. 25 to set a new jury trial.
And then there's 31-year-old Kaushal Niroula, aka the "Dark Prince," who was charged with 15 felony counts, including grand theft, money laundering, forgery, filing forged documents, and conspiracy. He has also been charged under California's Aggravated White Collar Crime Enhancement. He is in custody in Riverside County, but was served in jail with a $7.5 million warrant. He was found guilty of murder in Riverside County and is looking at a life sentence.
A fifth defendant, Grachelle C. Languban, is still an outstanding fugitive in this case and is reported to have fled to the Philippines.
The defendants conspired to fraudulently transfer a woman's three condominiums at One Rincon Hill, valued at $5.5. million. The defendants used illegal loans taken against that property and then put the properties into a conspirator's name. Afterward, they quickly took out loans against the properties, drained the properties of their equity, and then laundered the proceeds through shell companies, prosecutors said. When the victim checked with the city's Assessor-Recorder, the deal was already done.
According to the DA:
Niroula and Lum would impersonate a series of characters to access One Rincon Hill, get the keys to the units, and convince the bank that they were the owners. To get the keys to the three condos, Niroula contacted realtors and claimed to be a wealthy investor named "Syd Jones" who was interested in renting a condo at One Rincon Hill. When the lender insisted on meeting Lum and seeing the condos themselves before making any loans, "Syd Jones" contacted the realtors and offered to buy the condos, but he needed the keys to view them by himself.Most of the $2.2 million loan was allegedly paid either to a Nevada company or deposited into a confidential Swiss bank account.
With keys in hand, Niroula and Lum met with the lender. Lum posed as the owner, claiming to be a retired foreign tennis pro who received the properties as a gift from his wealthy aunt, Ms. Hwang. Mr. Niroula played his adviser and translator, "Joshua Beam," since Mr. Lum's character pretended to speak poor English.
The impersonations worked and the loan was approved for $2.2 million. As Lum and Niroula duped the lenders, Mr. Shah was arranging financing and escrow services through his extensive business contacts to handle the anticipated loan. Mr. Shah and his attorney, Mr. Emerich, then gave instructions on how to distribute the loan proceeds.
In an unrelated case, Niroula was found guilty on Sept. 7 of murdering a 74-year-old Palms Spring man to steal his money and property.