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Search warrant served, but check-scammer flees

March 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Investigators are looking for an Inland Empire woman who allegedly cheated dozens of people out of more than a million dollars in a mortgage scam. Dozens of fraud victims say it's been an absolute nightmare. They trusted a woman who authorities say then turned around and swindled them out of more than a million dollars. Police tried to arrest her but she was nowhere to be found.

It was an early morning wakeup call more than two years in the making. Just after sunrise, authorities served a search warrant at the Alta Loma home of Jodi Lee Nazir, to arrest her on multiple felony charges of embezzlement and grand theft. Police detained this woman, who told them Nazir wasn't home.

Authorities spent the morning collecting evidence. They say Nazir swindled millions of dollars out of a number of victims, including realtors Dan and Cheree Griffith.

"We've lost our home, lost our retirement, lost everything," said Dan.

For years, the Griffiths were part owners of an escrow company run by Nazir. But they say the company collapsed after a number of violations and schemes committed by Nazir; actions that left them, and many others, with no way to get their money back.

"There were over 200 employees and agents that had to find new jobs. There were buyers and sellers who lost money when the escrow company went away," said Cheree.

The District Attorney says one of the schemes involved an electronic check scanner that Nazir would use to deposit checks from the convenience of her office. But instead of destroying the checks afterwards, she would hold onto them.

Then, several months later, she would cash the same checks at a bank in Ontario. The DA's office says before the bank's computer could catch up with what did, she had moved the money, in essence, making hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Apparently, this system was created by the banks for some of their better customers," said San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Vance Welch.

Welch said it was a system predicated on good faith, but it was one that was easily manipulated.

Nazir was arrested in 2007. Three years later, charges are finally on the way.

"Hopefully she'll be held accountable for what she's being charged for," said Welch.

If convicted, the District Attorney says Jodi Lee Nazir could get 12 to 14 years in prison, and bring justice for those who've waited for this day for years.

"This is vindication. One of the things Jodi always said was, 'If I had done something wrong, I'd be in an orange suit.' She will be soon," said Cheree.

Anyone with information about where Jodi Lee Nazir might be should call the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office at (909) 891-3519.