The Sacramento Police Department wants to inform you of a scammer who bilked a small business owner out of thousands of dollars. If you have a small business, be aware of this.
The victim, Rosemary Burpo, ran a real estate brokerage for many years in the city of Sacramento without any agents. In 2004, she brought on Maria Elizabeth (Liz) Cortez as an agent. Overall, Burpo was pleased with Cortez’s work, and Cortez brought in over $300,000 in sales in 2005.
In March of 2006, Cortez brought in two sales for the year. Burpo questioned Cortez about the low number of sales for the year. Burpo also saw that Cortez was using her home address for the Burpo brokerage, and told her she could not do that, that all paperwork must go to her (the broker).
Burpo checked the data bank maintained by the board of realtors and discovered that her brokerage had sold several homes she was unaware of. Burpo went to the title companies that handled the sales and discovered five checks (totaling over $23,000) that had been written to Burpo Realty, but were sent to the home address of Liz Cortez. The checks were then deposited into the bank account of Liz Cortez who signed the back of each one, “Burpo Realty Pay to the Order of Liz Cortez.” This was done without the knowledge, or permission, of Rosemary Burpo.
A search warrant was served for the bank records of Liz Cortez for 2006. Examination of checks deposited by Cortez into her account revealed a number of checks that were made out to Burpo Realty totaling over $46,000.
It was also discovered that Cortez had deposited two checks made out to Rosemary Burpo by endorsing the checks in the same manner. This amount totaled over $1,500.
In all, the total amount of money Liz Cortez fraudulently deposited into her account was $71,524.73.
Cortex also embezzled money from other victims totaling thousands of dollars. She was convincing, seemed trustworthy, and had credentials. Cortez did a lot of business in the Hispanic community. If you did purchase a home from her, don’t worry, your transaction was legitimate.
If you’re in business, do your homework. Even if the person who wants to go into business with you was referred to you by a friend, you still need to do some background checking on him or her. There are numerous public records on the web where you can conduct this research.
Maria Elizabeth (Liz) Cortez