More than a year after a massive real-estate scam ensnarled three North County condo communities, the costs to taxpayers continue to grow. As we report, the bill is at least $7.8 million.

You may remember this scandal. As we reported in an investigation last year, a Bay Area man named Jim McConville “picked up those units from distressed developers and orchestrated their sale to more than 20 straw buyers — people who’d rented their identities to him.”

Our story examines what’s happened to the condos since — all were repossessed — and how the federal government ended up with one big fat tab.

  • So how humongous is San Diego’s new budget gap? About $40 million, says one official. It’s more like $60 million, says another.

    Either way, this is a brand spanking new financial hole, “on top of the $179 million deficit the city erased in December and the $77 million hole the city already faces for its 2012 budget.”

    City officials don’t seem sure what to do. But they’ll need to figure it out right quick.

  • Speaking of the city budget, did San Diego really lay off nearly 200 people, as Councilman Ben Hueso declared recently? Well, to steal a line from Maxwell Smart, would you believe … the real number is just 23? You should, because our latest Fact Check says that’s the correct number, and Hueso is wrong.
  • Earthquakes as large as the one in Chile — over magnitude 8.0 — only happen about once every 10 years, local seismologist Debi Kilb tells us in a brief Q&A about the art of monitoring quakes. But it’s not possible to go beyond a 10.0, says Kilb, who also predicts the future of earthquake predicting.
  • Our guest, the San Diego school district’s top financial guru, has answered 10 — that’s right, 10 — questions about budget issues. You can read all the questions and answers here on the Schooled blog.
  • The Photo of the Day captures a young student in deep concentration. He’d better be showing his work!

    Speaking of photos, our photographer Sam Hodgson wants to hear your thoughts about how he can improve the Credentialed blog, where the Photos of the Day appear. What kinds of photos would you like to see?

    Maybe some of my last vacation? Of me playing with the cat? (What? It’s not all about me? Since when? Oh. Since forever.)

Elsewhere:

  • In response to concerns about a cancer cluster in Carlsbad, state officials say the cancer rate in the city isn’t unusual. (NCT)

    A year ago, we wrote about a suspected cancer cluster in a building on the San Diego State University campus. As we reported, it’s difficult to determine whether high numbers of cancer cases are due to a specific cause or simply random.

  • The NCT reports that in the wake of the Chelsea King case, “Escondido officials say they plan to quickly clear excess brush and foliage along trails in southwestern Kit Carson Park to deprive predators and muggers of places to hide.”
  • The Weirdest Story of the Day is in the U-T: The owner of a North Park restaurant may be in serious legal trouble. Why? Because The Linkery charges a service fee instead of allowing tips. The policy made a big splash in The New York Times Magazine back in 2008.
  • How long does it take for San Diego to repair a few showers at a city-owned property that takes in the homeless during the day? Four years, CityBeat reports. They won’t be fixed until April 2012, a city staffer says, and plans for the repairs won’t be done until October.

    Considering all the time they’ve taken, those had better be some primo showers. Automatic driers and robotic back scrubbers, anyone?

— RANDY DOTINGA

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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