State

Merced man convicted of real estate fraud wanted in Spokane

MERCED - A 33-year-old man convicted of real estate fraud in Merced County will probably be heading to Washington to face similar charges, after his recent arrest on a Spokane County warrant.

Jesse Munoz Jr., of Merced, was arrested on the warrant May 28 at the John Latorraca Correctional Center, where he's serving a nine-month jail sentence for defrauding several Merced County residents in investment schemes in 2007 and 2008, according to the Merced County District Attorney's Office.

An extradition hearing, to determine when Munoz will be extradited to Washington, hasn't yet been scheduled.

Wayne Hutton, a supervising investigator for the Merced County District Attorney's Office, said the latest allegations against Munoz are similar to the charges he faced in Merced County. Spokane police believe Munoz's real estate fraud crimes in Washington happened in 2006 and 2007, Hutton said.

Munoz was arrested in Merced County in July 2008, after being accused of collecting about $400,000 from investors who believed they'd get a quick return.

Investigators said Munoz ran advertisements promising quick returns on fraudulent real estate investments, some of which were advertised in the Sun-Star.

To attract victims, investigators said, Munoz exploited family connections and acquaintances, running ads for "working capital" to start businesses, such as a Laundromat and a video store.

He was also accused of creating several fake businesses, then asking people to invest in his schemes.

Spokane police issued an arrest warrant in August 2008. Investigators believe Munoz may have fled the state of Washington and came to Merced after he learned of the police investigation in Spokane.

On April 20, Munoz pleaded no contest in Merced County Superior Court to six felony counts of obtaining money through false pretenses, and three misdemeanor counts of acting as a real estate investment company without a license.

Munoz was sentenced to nine months in jail and ordered to pay full restitution to his victims.

A sentence of 10 years, eight months in prison was suspended.

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