A Campbell real estate agent is facing charges that she tricked 13 people in a convoluted Ponzi-scheme totaling $1.2 million, spending much of that money on clothes, fancy cars and an expensive remodel of her home, according to prosecutors.
Jill Marie Silvey, 50, could face up to 31 years in prison if she is convicted of 44 counts of grand theft by false pretense, forgery and recording false documents, said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Paul Colin. On Thursday, she was in custody on $3 million bail.
She is expected to enter a plea in court on Monday.
"Jill Silvey was a successful real estate agent," Colin said. "And Jill Silvey lied."
Through his parallegal, Silvey's attorney, Cameron Watt, said that he was investigating the case, and had no comment. The number she provided on her website was not in working order.
Jim Neal said Silvey worked for Stevenson & Neal Realtors in Campbell for about seven months, and she was dismissed in early December. He declined to say more.
The essence of Silvey's alleged scheme, according to Colin, was this: She convinced people to give her money - perhaps $100,000 -which she said would be paid back with up to 12 percent interest in up to five years. As collateral, she would tell the investors that someone's home was being put up as "secured-interest," Colin said.
These transactions can be perfectly legal, he added, but the two-fold twist here was that Silvey allegedly pocketed the investors money, and at the same time, never told the homeowners that she had put up their homes as collateral. Silvey did provide paperwork for these deals, but the paperwork, according to prosecutors, was bogus.
Investigators were first tipped off to the alleged fraud before Thanksgiving. A San Jose couple who had invested money in Silvey's deal decided to go over to the home that Silvey had promised as collateral and demand what they thought was a tardy payment, prosecutors said. When approached, those homeowners were shocked to hear that their house had been put up in any such arrangement, Colin said. Both couples knocked on Silvey's door, and then, suspecting they had been duped, went to the DA's real estate fraud unit.
Investigators met with Silvey, Colin said, declining to comment on what Silvey might have said at the time. She was formally charged at the end of June. During the investigation, prosecutors learned that a dozen more victims had allegedly been bilked out of their money from 2005 to 2011. Some of those victims live in San Jose, Saratoga, Morgan Hill and Redding. Many were elderly.
The exact breakdown of the charges are:
- 15 counts of grand theft
- 20 counts of forgery
- 7 counts of stealing from someone older than 65
- 2 counts of filing a false document
Colin said investigators discovered that Silvey had allegedly bought clothes, two expensive SUVS, and had completed a remodel on her home with the money. Colin added that Silvey is the only defendant in this case, and none of her employers or family are considered suspects.
Silvey is also in the process of declaring bankruptcy.
The unfortunate part of this case, Colin added, is that "it is extremely unlikely that the victims will ever get any of their money back."
Prosecutors warn that you shouldn't offer or accept cash payments for real estate investments. Instead, they advise using an escrow company to transfer your money to the borrower and make sure you get a recorded deed of trust. Title insurance should confirm that the borrower actually owns the property and if there are any existing liens against the property. A licensed appraiser should report if the property is actually worth enough to protect your investment.
Anyone with information about the case should call DA Investigator Jodi Thomas at 408-792-2928,
Contact Lisa Fernandez at 408-432-4758 or firstname.lastname@example.org.