It’s been one of the biggest mysteries in the huge mortgage swindle that we exposed more than a year ago: Who helped the man behind it make it happen?

Now, federal prosecutors say they have the answer: they allege that a Bay Area escrow officer was a key part of the scheme created by a man named Jim McConville, who orchestrated straw buyers to purchase hundreds of condos throughout California.

The escrow officer helped McConville cloak the fact that he was sucking large chunks of money out of the sales by creating two different receipts for the transactions.

An indictment released Friday spills new details about the fraud and the roles played by McConville and five others who have been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud.

In other news:

We’ve been exploring the city’s trouble street repair system, exposing how San Diego’s streets are destined to get worse.

The city borrowed $103 million in 2009 for road repairs, but it will take 2.5 years to finish them. How come it takes so darned long? We get the answer.

In another new post, we examine a touchy problem for the city: how do employees coordinate the repair department’s repairs with work done by electricity, cable, water and wastewater crews?

• Tuberculosis sounds like a disease that’s already had its day, back when it was called consumption and the sick were thought to gloriously waste away from an illness that seemed downright romantic. (Remember the movie “Moulin Rouge”?)

But tuberculosis still around, mainly afflicting the poor people. The local disease prevalence is so high, a county health care worker recently told the Board of Supervisors, that San Diego has the highest tuberculosis rate in the nation.

Is that true? It’s actually false, and way off the mark too, according to our latest Fact Check analysis

• Real-estate and economics guru Rich Toscano takes a look at local population growth in his latest column, and it has everything: a recycled joke, not one but two charts and an always timely reference to bubble-headed “housing bubble cheerleaders.” (What do they chant, do you think? “Raise your spirits, raise them high! Go, fight, buy!!!”)

• Are you making money from YouTube? If so, let us know: we’re working on a story.

• The Photo of the Day went south of the border.


• Local sports icon Bob Breitbard has died at the age of 91. The U-T calls him “a visionary sportsman who blessed his native San Diego with an arena, a museum to honor its athletic heritage and professional franchises in basketball and hockey.”

• Authorities tried to explain the Amber Dubois and Chelsea King investigations to the press yesterday. Among the revelations (in the U-T and NCT): Escondido police didn’t consider the murderer of the two girls to be a suspect in Dubois’s disappearance even though he lived near her because nothing seemed to connect them.

And he brought up Dubois when questioned about King: “I suppose you’re going to blame me for the girl in Escondido as well.” He later confessed to her murder and led authorities to her body.  

Meanwhile, the mother of Amber Dubois appeared on “Good Morning America” (U-T). She talked about what murderer John Albert Gardner III told her regarding her daughter’s abduction.

• The county grand jury has issued a report about homelessness, and it’s chock full of interesting tidbits, including the cost of caring for transients for local governments. The two hospitals that bothered to respond to the grand jury estimated their costs at $35 million over two years. (Really? Only two hospitals could lift a finger to give an answer? I don’t know about you, but I’d pay attention if a grand jury came calling.)

The report supports a regional housing authority, but CityBeat says that’s not very likely to ever happen. And the jury supports more portable toilets downtown; a private donor has installed four in East Village.

• Seal victory! Well, maybe. More than 500 people packed a meeting regarding the fate of the seals at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla last night, the U-T reports.The council voted to ask the mayor to declare an emergency in order to pave the way toward a temporary rope barrier to protect the seals. The council wants to make the barrier permanent, ban dogs from the beach and put a park ranger there.

No word on whether the council will act to put a rope around any other smelly creatures who sleep a lot. (By the way, when is my family reunion?)

• Also in the U-T: “The Scripps Institution of Oceanography says it has won the right to operate a new $88 million deep sea research ship that will be funded for global exploration by the U.S. Office of Naval Research.”

• Finally, Pete Wilson — the former governor, senator and San Diego mayor — has revealed himself to be a bit of a history buff. He wrote a letter to the New Yorker magazine defending the late historian Stephen E. Ambrose, who’s recently been accused of inventing the details about conversations with President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Brushing aside the accusations (not the first) of Ambrose’s flat-out fabrication, Wilson writes that “what truly matters is that Ambrose made the history of our country compelling.”

Meanwhile, even newer allegations of fabrication are now facing Ambrose, these alleging that he fudged his account of the Rosenberg executions.

I’d like spend more time thinking about why a little faked history is no big deal. But I’m meeting the Clintons, Bushes and the Obamas for a lunchtime interview today. Gotta run!


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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