The defense for accused mortgage broker asked Santa Clara County Superior Court to lessen the $300,000 bail his client was given for allegedly stealing $273,000 from an elderly Campbell man but the case was continued.
The Jan. 25 bail hearing was continued after Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney of the Elder Fraud Unit Cherie Bourlard made a motion to raise the bail for Samantha Pham. A new date has been set for Jan. 30, 2:00 p.m. in Dept. 39.
Pham, 30, a native of Vietnam, flirted with the smitten elderly victim and told bank employees she was his fiancee to qualify him for a home loan and eventually pocket $200,000 from him, Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourlard said.
Pham has three counts of theft of an elder spread out from a time period, with an aggravated white collar crime enhancement, she said.
"If you take more than $100,000, there is an additional one to three year penalty just because of the sheer nature of the amount taken," Bourlard said.
Pham was a state-licensed mortgage broker in April 2009 when she "cold called" the man, then 69 years old, to get him to refinance a home he owned free and clear near Pollard Road and state Highway 85 in Campbell, Bourlard said.
After the loan went though, Pham allegedly convinced the man to invest $200,000 of it into a company, Western Financial, that she said was hers but was really a shell company run by her boyfriend in Elk Grove near Sacramento, Bourlard said.
Pham then allegedly used almost $50,000 of the funds to pay restitution in a then-pending criminal case in Clark County, Nevada against Pham that was dismissed after the money was received, Bourlard said.
The woman also persuaded the man to sign a lease for Pham's supposed new place of business in Elk Grove and then charge office furniture and a $73,000 Lexus car onto his credit card, Bourlard said.
Later in 2009, the elderly man found he could no longer afford to make the mortgage payments on his three-bedroom, two bathroom house, and so Pham convinced him to sell the home, Bourlard said.
The home, at 1566 Walters Ave. in Campbell, sold for $930,000 on Sept. 4, 2009, according to the real estate website Zillow.com. After the home sold, Pham extracted $7,000 from the man in what she dubbed a referral fee, Bourlard said.
The man ended up in bad financial shape, had to file for bankruptcy protection in September 2009 and Pham cut ties with him.
He contacted the Campbell Police Department and the investigation took some time in part because much of the case occurred in Elk Grove, Bourlard said.
"We've been investigating this case for the last 3.5 years," said Campbell Police Sgt. Gary Berg. "It's been a pretty labor-intensive case. A lot of money involved, a lot of determining where the money went; a pretty long money trail."
Campbell Police Detective Mark Cutler interviewed Pham's boyfriend, Peter Lai, who then notified the California Secretary of State's office that he was closing down Western Financial, Bourland said.
"Det. Cutler took it over beginning 2012 and interviewed her boyfriend as well as many others," Berg said. "We have evidence of his involvement, but need to see if it meets the threshold for criminal charges."
The incident in Campbell is not the only one Pham is being investigated on.
A public records search shows more than half a dozen other lawsuits pending in Sacramento County.
"Once she’s got her hooks into them, she convinces these people to do a cash out," Bourlard said. "Pham would go so far as to open up an office building to show she’s legit but once she has the money, she vanishes."
This type of "sweetheart scam" is, unfortunately all too common and highly under reported, Bourland said.
"By the time he figures out what's happening, he’s too ashamed, too stubborn to report it," she said. "A lot of these cases go unnoticed."
As to the final time frame, Bourlard said it's all on Pham now.
"It could be over in a month or over in a year," Bourlard said. "The ball is in her court right now."
The next court date in this case is Jan. 30, 2:00 p.m. in dept. 39. at Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose.
--Bay City News contributed to this report
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