A Laguna Beach father and son who operated a realty appraisal service have been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to artificially inflate real estate values in order to secure more business with lending institutions. A Corona del Mar man has turned himself in on similar charges related to the case, said Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
James Merritt Eaton, 60, his son Brian Chandler Eaton, 28, both of Laguna Beach, and real estate appraisal firm executive Michael John Bell, 32, of Corona del Mar, have been charged with one felony count of conspiracy to defraud another of property, 17 felony counts of grand theft by false pretense, two felony counts of identity theft, two felony counts of false personation, and sentencing enhancement allegations for aggravated white collar crime of more than $100,000 and property damage exceeding $50,000.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 18 years in state prison. The three are scheduled for a continued arraignment on Feb. 22, Emami said.