It’s been three years since a Voice of San Diego investigation exposed a $13 million mortgage swindle involving more than 80 condos in North County cities Escondido and San Marcos.

This afternoon, federal courts sentenced the swindle’s mastermind, James McConville, to nearly eight years in prison and ordered him to pay more than $7 million in restitution. McConville pleaded guilty in January to fraud and money laundering charges.

The swindle’s effects still linger. The crash from more than 80 foreclosures in three complexes caused surrounding condos’ value to plummet. McConville’s scam units sold in 2008 for more than $300,000 each. Today, there are units in one of the complexes, Sommerset Villas, currently for sale for $64,900 and $80,000.

When my colleague Will Carless and I worked on this story, one of the things that stood out the most was the timing. (Read Part Two of our series, “How It Could Happen in 2008.”) McConville’s fraud happened at the same time the country’s big banks and the federal government were touting their crackdown on the excesses of the housing boom that had led to a global financial collapse.

That timing showed up in the Northern California U.S. Attorney’s Office’s announcement of McConville’s sentence today. From U.S. Attorney (Melinda) Haag:

Mr. McConville’s actions during our country’s financial crisis caused financial institutions to lose millions of dollars. What he thought would be a big payday for him, instead resulted in an extended prison stay.

We’ve filed all of our coverage over the years of this scam on one index page; check it out here.

I’m Kelly Bennett, reporter for Voice of San Diego. You can reach me directly at or 619.325.0531.

And follow Behind the Scene on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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