Federal prosecutors have charged James Delbert McConville, a Bay Area man at the center of our investigation a year ago, with conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering in relation with a string of real estate purchases made using other people’s identities in San Diego County and elsewhere in California.

The federal indictment lists the real estate complexes in Escondido and San Marcos we wrote about last year, as well as 300 units in Ridgecrest, as units that McConville bought using the credit scores and identities of straw buyers.

The straw buyers agreed to McConville using their identities in exchange for a promised payment of thousands of dollars. The six straw buyers we talked to for our investigation said they hadn’t been paid the $10,000 they were promised, and were left to pick up the pieces of broken credit when McConville didn’t make the payments on their mortgages.

The federal indictment also names several other McConville associates, including Donna Demello, an escrow officer at Stewart Title. According to the court documents, Demello cloaked the massive payouts McConville received out of the real estate purchases he arranged, hiding them from the lenders who were funding the loans to the straw buyers.

Other McConville associates named in the indictment worked to create false bank records and other documents that would allow the identities of the straw buyers to be used to purchase the properties, even though those straw buyers didn’t intend to make any of the payments themselves, according to prosecutors.

Law enforcement officials attempted to arrest McConville today but he wasn’t home. Defendant Laura Caton, a Realtor who worked for McConville, appeared today in San Francisco court and was released on bail.

Stay tuned for more on this as the federal case unfolds. In the meantime, if you’d like to read more from our 2009 investigation, here’s an index of our initial series and follow-up coverage.

— KELLY BENNETT

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