Mexico YouTube Restaurant Video Ad Leads to $1.3 million West Hollywood Real Estate Fraud Arrest LASD
Between 2004 and 2009, 44-year-old Alejandro “Alex” Martinez was employed as the president of Prime West Escrow in West Hollywood. During that time, it is alleged that Martinez stole $1,324,825.00 from the escrow company’s trust account.
Martinez accomplished the theft by issuing checks and authorizing wire transfers out of the trust account to a company he controlled, or to other entities for his benefit.
Martinez attempted to conceal the theft by forging escrow instructions to make it appear that the transactions were legitimate. Martinez used the stolen funds to purchase a residential property, and open a restaurant called Café La Boheme, in the Yucatan Peninsula City of Merida, Mexico.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigation began when owners of Prime West Escrow discovered the theft in March 2009. They noticed that their trust account was overdrawn and confronted Martinez, who initially claimed the overdrafts were an error. When the owners hired an accounting firm to conduct a forensic audit, and filed a report with the Sheriff’s West Hollywood Station, Martinez fled to Mexico. A criminal investigation was conducted by Real Estate Fraud Unit detectives from the Sheriff’s Commercial Crimes Bureau.
The investigation revealed that the victims of the real estate fraud resided in nearly every city in the County of Los Angeles, and included victims ranging from members of the armed forces serving overseas, to newly married couples trying to purchase their first homes. Most victims lost between $10,000.00 to $50,000.00
As part of the search for the suspect, Sheriff’s Commercial Crimes Detective Ron Sabatine searched the Internet to see if there was any mention of the suspect. Knowing that he had likely fled to Mexico led Detective Sabatine to discover a YouTube video featuring the suspect. The video showed the suspect promoting his restaurant “Café La Boheme” in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and was posted on YouTube in April 2012.
As a result of Suspect Martinez actions, the real estate company was taken over by the California Department of Corporations and is no longer in business.
On January 23, 2013, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office charged Martinez with Grand Theft and Forgery, in felony complaint number BA406928. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Martinez. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detectives then began working with the District Attorney to extradite Martinez from Mexico.
For reasons not yet known to investigators, Suspect Martinez flew to Los Angeles International Airport from Mexico on Tuesday, October 8, 2013. At the airport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers saw the arrest warrant in the computer system, detained the suspect, and notified LAX Police. Los Angeles Airport Police Officers arrested Martinez at LAX.
Martinez was arraigned on Thursday, October 10, 2013, in Department 30 at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles. He pled not guilty and his next court appearance is November 20, 2013.
Anyone who believes they may have been victimized by Suspect Martinez is encouraged to contact:
Detective Ron Sabatine
Real Estate Fraud Unit
Commercial Crimes Bureau
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
Or if you wish to remain Anonymous, call “LA Crime Stoppers” by dialing 800-222-TIPS (8477), texting the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org
West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station polices the City of West Hollywood and the unincorporated communities of Franklin Canyon, Universal City (which includes Universal Theme Park, Studios, and Citywalk), and the Federal Enclave in West Los Angeles:
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LA Crime Stoppers: Partner to prevent or report crime by contacting your local Sheriff’s station. Or if you wish to remain Anonymous, call “LA Crime Stoppers” by dialing 800-222-TIPS (8477), texting the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org
Leroy D. Baca, Sheriff
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
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