By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
They made quite a team. "Mr. Weston is definitely the charmer," says Ophir Britton, an attorney who sued them to collect a debt. "Ms. Parmelee is definitely the very aggressive, very vicious one."
Both were strivers. And, for a while, they lived out a version of the American dream in a 4,000-square-foot ranch house in the hills above Pasadena. They opened an upscale liquor store, hosted fund-raisers, and joined the Chamber of Commerce.
But according to court records, their fortune was built on loan fraud. Today, their properties are in foreclosure while they sit in county jail.
Their life together began in 2000, with a chance meeting at the Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena. They were each getting out of relationships.
Weston had been dating a woman named Sharon Loudd, but their romance had begun to unravel over a kitchen remodeling. According to a civil judgment in the case, Weston had started the job, but had run out of money. To finish it, he suggested she deed her house to him, so he could use his work history to get a home-equity loan. He promised to transfer the deed back to her once he finished the job. Loudd, who was living out of a cracker box at that point, agreed.
Instead of deeding the house back to her, however, Weston pulled out all the equity and went into default. Loudd started to get calls from creditors she knew nothing about. Then her home was foreclosed. She endured years of litigation to regain title to her house.
"This is his game," Loudd told the Weekly. "He's a con man. He's a liar, but he's very charismatic."
Parmelee was engaged in her own struggle with her husband of 10 years, David Eng, a deputy district attorney. In 2000, Eng was a rising star in the District Attorney's Office, heading up a task force that was investigating the high-profile Belmont Learning Center scandal.
But at home, his life was a mess. According to voluminous court records, he fought with Parmelee over child support and visitation rights. They also could not agree on how to divide three properties in San Marino and La Cañada Flintridge, exclusive communities that boast the state's top two school districts.
At some point, Eng says he got a call from Weston, whom he had never met. Weston offered to buy one of the houses in La Cañada Flintridge. Told that it was not on the market, Weston called back later and offered to buy the other one.
Eng became suspicious. Soon he discovered that Weston was living with his estranged wife.
Alarmed, he began digging into Weston's criminal background.
As it turned out, this was not their first encounter. A year earlier, Eng had helped to prosecute Weston's mother in a real estate fraud case.
Could it be that Weston had courted Eng's wife and, together, they targeted Eng for revenge? They maintained they met by chance at Brookside Golf Course. (A judge handling Loudd's case would later voice skepticism that the two met so innocently.)
As Eng, who declined to comment for this story, tried to unravel Weston's past, he obtained Weston's rap sheet. When Weston learned of that, he complained to the District Attorney's Office. Eng was charged with misusing government databases, and put on unpaid leave. The case was ultimately dropped and Eng returned to work — but at a juvenile branch an hour from his house.
"He got what they call freeway therapy," says Jay Ritt, who is representing Eng in a lawsuit against District Attorney Steve Cooley. "He went from being a highly regarded toxic-crime investigator to never prosecuting another toxic crime again."
After eight years of bickering, Eng and Parmelee finalized their divorce. Parmelee would keep the two homes in La Cañada. Eng would keep the San Marino house. Having wiped out her debts by declaring bankruptcy, Parmelee moved quickly to leverage her assets. In a letter to potential lenders in 2004, she said that she had already invested in three new properties.
"With hard work, tenacity and determination, I was able to achieve the American dream," she wrote, in imperfect English.
Explaining her bankruptcy, she said it was necessary to free her from her ex-husband's "reign of terror." Now, she would have a clean slate. If a bank would have faith in her, she would meet her obligations.
"I am energized and excited to start a new life and a new beginning. I am good in what I do," she wrote. "I have now a chance to focus in investing in real estate. ... All I see is a rainbow at the end of the tunnel!"
In 2004 or thereabouts, Luis Garcia went to work in a boiler room at the nation's largest subprime lender, Ameriquest Mortgage. A Guatemalan immigrant, Garcia had failed a test to get into the U.S. Marine Corps. At Ameriquest, he would have found a sales culture nearly as stressful as boot camp.
According to an investigative series that ran in the Los Angeles Times in 2005, Ameriquest sales agents were pushed to the limit to feed Wall Street's insatiable demand for new mortgages. They slammed Red Bulls to get through hour after hour of cold calls. They said they were encouraged to take shortcuts in the pursuit of six-figure salaries. According to the Times series, they forged loan documents, used false appraisals and false income statements, and saddled unsophisticated debtors with high interest rates and hidden fees.