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DARK MONEY: 3,600 sq. ft. home ‘purchased’ by Asm. Cristina Garcia for $170,000 in 2012 is now worth over $1 million

BY BRIAN HEWS

The block of twenty-two homes located in northeast Bell Gardens bounded by Pham Dr., Foster Bridge Blvd., Hannon St., and Emil Ave. have done quite well in the current real estate market, with five valued at well over $1 million, and ten more valued at over $800,000, according to the website Zillow.

One home, 6544 Emil Ave., was assessed at $623,000 in 2012, it is now worth over $992,000 according to the same website.

The house is a 3,629 sq. ft. apartment building that was built in 1948 and is an investors dream having 7 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms; and it is owned by current embattled California State Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia.

Garcia purchased the house in 2012 for $170,000, a transaction that is not only extremely suspicious but could be under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission.

FPPC Complaint

In April of this year a complaint was filed with the FPPC, first reported by POLITICO, by RagePath and Geoffrey Andersen that included 6544 Emil.

It was a multi-violation complaint alleging Garcia violated campaign disclosure provisions, economic interest disclosure provisions, and gift limit provisions.

Only one month later, unheard of speed for an FPPC investigation, the complaint was dismissed.

 

The FPPC letter sent to Geoffrey Andersen dismissing his complaint.

 

But did they dismiss the entire complaint?

$453,000 Campaign Violation or Equity Strip?

Records show that the former owner of the 6544 Emil house was Daryl Warren Halpert, who now resides in a tiny home in the remote desert county of Dayton, 23 miles east of Carson City, Nevada.

Halpert bought 6544 Emil in 2000, living there for twelve years while watching the value grow each year, hitting the $623,000 assessed value mark in 2012.

In 2012, for reasons unknown, he decided to “sell” his home.

Normally a person interested in selling their home would hire a real estate agent, fix up the house, get an appraisal, market and then list the home.

Records show that Halpert did nothing of the sort, he did not even hire an agent.

But somehow Assemblywoman Garcia found out about the sale.

Halpert “sold” his $623,000 home to Assemblywoman Garcia, whom some say he did not know, for a mere $170,000.

That was $453,000 below the assessed value, not the market value which is always higher.

$85,000 of the purchase price was seller (Halpert) financed, the remaining $85,000 was paid by Garcia.

The timing of the transaction was very suspicious, taking place immediately after the primary Garcia won in June 2012.

Even more suspicious, Garcia identified and signed her name on all documents as Maria Cristina Garcia.

Three years after the sale, Garcia cashed in on the equity that Halpert suspiciously gave up, re-financing the home and taking out a $438,000 loan.

HMG-LCCN recently went out to Bell Gardens to take a picture of the house and found it had undergone a substantial remodel, the home now likely valued at well over $1 million.

Not a bad investment: an $830,000 appreciation in just over six years, and the property has rental income.

 

 

Substantial remodel: 6544 Emil before (top) and after remodel (bottom).

 

 

HMG-LCCN sent several question (twice) to Garcia’s Communication Director Teala Schaff asking:
1. How well did Garcia know Halpert prior to the sale?
2. Why the transaction did not involve a realtor?
3. Why Halpert sold for $453,000 less than what it was worth?
4. Who chose the $170,000 sale number?
5. Why the Assemblywoman identified and signed her paperwork Maria Cristina Garcia?

As of publication time, neither Schaff nor Garcia had answered.

Evidence of an ongoing investigation?

The May letter from the FPPC to Andersen and RagePath presumably dismissed the entire complaint with the first paragraph stating, “this letter is in response to the sworn complaint you submitted to the Enforcement Division of the Fair Political Practices Commission regarding the above-named individual [Garcia]. The Enforcement Division will not open an investigation on this matter.”

The paragraph would seem to indicate the entire multi-violation complaint was closed.

But the second paragraph of the letter only cited one violation as cured, “Enforcement has reviewed documents obtained concerning the allegations. Ms. Garcia filed an amendment to her 2013 Annual Statement of Economic Interests (SEI) to disclose the loan from Dale Halbert for her Granger property. Since Miss Garcia filed an amendment to her 2013 Annual SEI immediately after receipt of the complaint to remedy the lack of disclosure, and paid the loan in full in November 2013, the Enforcement Division found this untimely reporting to be de minimus and will not pursue this matter further.”

Note the lack of reference to any other violations cited in RagePath’s complaint, including 6544 Emil.

The letter was signed by Galena West, Chief of the Enforcement Division, but the letter referred all questions to Chloe Hackert, FPPC “Political Reform Consultant.”

Hackert has an interesting background for such a lofty title; according to her Linkedin page she worked as a Store Supervisor at Marini’s Candies up until 2014.

She worked for the FPPC for only six months, in two three-month increments, for the next two years.

Hackert was finally hired as an Assistant Political Reform Consultant in January 2016, promoted to her current position in March 2017.

HMG-LCCN pointed out the wording in the May dismissal letter to Mr. Wierenga, asking if the entire multi-violation complaint had been closed or just the Granger property violation.

Mr. Wierenga answered, “I only know what was sent you.”

And there is evidence that the dismissal letter was leaked to Garcia and caused consternation among FPPC Commissioners, who are all political appointees.

The dismissal letter was published May 9, one day later Garcia published a letter on her website claiming vindication.

Less than one month later on June 4, FPPC Chair and Brown appointee Jodi Remke suddenly resigned.

Seven days later another Brown appointee, Commissioner Maria Audero, suddenly resigned, seven months before the conclusion of her term.

Mike Simpfederfer, who is running against Garcia in next Tuesday’s election, did not mince words telling HMG-LCCN, “It is unbelievable an elected official stole hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of dollars in equity from someone elderly. Cristina Garcia got rich stealing equity. It is imperative the Los Angeles County District Attorney investigate the apparent elder abuse and not be afraid to prosecute. We’ve witnessed the tampering and intimidation and extortion by Cristina Garcia against Danny Fierro. Let us hope the District Attorney will be strong enough to hold her accountable.”

[email protected]

@cerritosnews

 

 

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