Dozens of minority families get justice after losing millions to Valley housing scam

Posted at 6:01 PM, Mar 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-23 21:01:39-04

Dozens of minority families are getting justice after they were tricked out of millions of their life savings thinking they were buying a house just to learn their dream home was never actually theirs.

Francisco Aguirre, the owner of Montecristo Properties, learned Friday morning he will spend the next seven and a half years in prison for defrauding 40 families in Arizona, along with six years probation once he is released.

On top of that, Aguirre is required to pay $2 million in restitution to the victims of his real estate scam.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, Aguirre plead guilty in 2018 to one count of Fraud, one count of Theft and two counts of Forgery from 2013 to 2015. The AG’s office also said Aguirre targeted vulnerable families, predominantly Spanish-speaking families who wanted to buy homes. 

The families would pay down payments and even monthly payments on a home they believed they were buying, but instead would keep the money and send the families into foreclosure.

One of his victims was Ana Abigail-Zarate. She and her husband bought a home from Aguirre in 2015, four days after moving in and thousands of dollars in renovations she came home to a sign on her door that the house was no longer hers.

“The whole floor of our lives just fell, and we just fell down,” Zarate said. “To go one day to the next being homeless, be broken, be pregnant, be without hope, without dreams. That devastated our lives.” 

Aguirre, she says had stolen $40,000 of her life savings. The scam forced her and her husband to sell off a lot of their belongings and forced them to move in with her parents to get back on their feet. 

“It’s humbling, but it’s also very humiliating,” said Zarate.

Sylvia Gallo was another one of Aguirre’s victims. She claims to have had $320,000 stolen from her when she invested her life savings in buying four homes from Zarate. She said she thought he was her friend.

“He’s a monster; he’s a thief, a con artist, scum! He’s like the worst of the worst,” she said. “He stole millions of dollars, millions!...We’re not gonna get a dime.” 

The Attorney General began looking into Aguirre after complaints flooded his office.  

“To me, the American Dream is about being able to afford a home and sending your kids to college and what this guy did was stole this money and crushed their dreams of owning a home as well,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “If you’re a crook, If you’re a con artist, If you’re a cheat, we will find you, we will indict you, and we will prosecute, and we will do everything we can to send you to prison.”

The Attorney General says before you go into business with anyone, do your due diligence. Check online and references. Check the Better Business Bureau website and search the person or company you wish to do business with to make sure they’re legitimate. 

In this case, Aguirre didn’t even have a real estate license.  

Aguirre’s victims say they’ll never get back what he took from them.

“We’re just working hard trying to see what we can do in the future,” said Zarate.