Major Merced County Realtor’s license revoked after state audits reveal missing funds

The real estate license of a major broker in Merced County was revoked by the state last month, according to California Department of Real Estate records.

Michael V. Salvadori has over the past several years received multiple state audits on his real estate business’s trust funds, according to CDRE records.

A real estate trust is a pool of money managed by a broker, such as Salvadori, that’s mostly used for escrow payments.

The audit finding caused the state to take Salvadori’s license, the documents show.

Salvadori says an employee embezzled the money from the accounts and that he’s made the accounts whole again.

“While I had a licensed real estate agent as my manager, as the broker, I was responsible for any discrepancy,” Salvadori states in an email response sent to the Sun-Star. “So, I paid back every penny that was missing with funds from my personal accounts.”

State records indicate Salvadori handed the keys to his business to Erin Hamm and her husband, Eric Hamm.

Erin Hamm is a Merced Union High School District trustee. She also is the daughter of Razzari Ford owner Tim Razzari.

Records reveal two of Salvadori’s trust accounts were short by more than $400,000 over a seven-year span, according to audits contained in CDRE records.

A 2013 audit found that as of Dec. 31, 2012, one trust fund was short $292,945. The other fund was short by $110,840.11.

A follow-up audit in 2014 discovered another shortage of $3,113.99.

The audits also found the money was taken without getting written consent of the principals of the trust, and that the brokerage failed to properly document and receipt disbursements of funds deposited into the trust accounts.

Another audit in 2017 found yet more shortages, according to CDRE records. One trust account was short $13,253.26, while another was down $18,161.92.

“I debated whether to pursue felony charges against the individuals who stole from me, but ultimately decided that I did not want to tear apart families by sending a mother or father to jail,” Salvadori states in his email. “It was a difficult decision, but, in the end, I feel like I did the right thing.”

As a result of the findings, the unrestricted licenses of Salvadori and his businesses were revoked for at least two years, records state.

New company

Now, when clients call the number for Century 21 Salvadori Realty, they’re greeted by Next Door Real Estate.

State records indicate Erin Hamm is the broker for Next Door Real Estate, which was officially active as of last week.

Salvadori’s move to retire from real estate had been in the works for a while.

More than a year ago, he sold the real estate business to Rental Zebra, a company owned by Erin Hamm and some of her family members, her husband said.

Salvadori and the Hamms also were in discussions to sell them the real estate business, Eric Hamm said. But Salvadori wanted to finish out his contract with Century 21 before selling the firm, which the Hamms plan to run independently.

The majority of Century 21 Salvadori agents have indicated they plan to stay on with Next Door Real Estate, Eric Hamm said.

“Mike is a legend in the real estate world,” Eric Hamm said. “It’s tragic that at the end of his career he’s had to deal with what he’s had to deal with. But we believe the Salvadori name is synonymous with giving back to the community.

“We hope to carry on his legacy.”

Deep ties

Hamm and the Razzari family have strong connections to Michael Salvadori.

Salvadori donated $5,000 to Hamm’s 2018 MUHSD school board election campaign, by far the largest contribution she received, according to campaign finance records.

Salvadori has similarly contributed to several Merced County political campaigns over the years, including former Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II and former Merced County sheriff candidate Frank Swiggart, whose wife, Conchita Swiggart, has worked as Salvadori’s assistant.

Vikaas Shanker is an award-winning reporter covering education, crime and courts for the Merced Sun-Star and Los Banos Enterprise. After growing up in Naperville, Illinois and graduating from the University of Kansas, he reported in several Chicago suburbs before moving to Merced County in 2016.