Local man’s mortgage scam

Developer Tony Symmes admits culpability in fraud investigation

Major local developer Anthony “Tony” Symmes made big headlines this week, in the Wall Street Journal as well as the Chico Enterprise-Record, for his part in an alleged mortgage-fraud scheme. The 59-year-old Paradise man has been linked to a plan bilking millions from lending institutions. According to The Sacramento Bee and the E-R, the developer is cooperating with prosecutors; he’s already repaid $4 million in losses.

Federal prosecutors say Symmes worked the scam with Garret Griffith Gililland III, an unlicensed Chico mortgage broker. The two allegedly conspired by hiking up the prices of 62 Aspire homes that the developer could not move in the depressed market of 2006 and then selling them to “straw buyers.”

Gililland helped the unqualified buyers get 100 percent financing. In return, Symmes cut him in for the difference between the homes’ actual value and their selling prices. This alleged con lasted until 2008, when all of the homes had sold for $21 million.

The Butte County District Attorney’s Office began an investigation that year, after sheriff’s deputies kept finding illegal pot grows in empty homes linked to the men. Gililland, who has ties to an even larger scheme in the Sacramento area, fled the country, but he has since been arrested and awaits charges in Sacramento.