(Photo from a followup article in the LA Times.)
Bernard L. Madoff's massive fraud stunned some of the wealthy denizens of Malibu Colony, especially when a couple devastated by the scheme surrendered their oceanfront home to Wells Fargo Bank.
But some neighbors say the real shocker came when they saw one of the bank's top executives spending weekends in the $12-million beach house and hosting eye-catching parties there. What's more, Wells Fargo spurned offers to show the property to prospective buyers, a real estate agent said.
Residents identified the house's occupant as Cheronda Guyton, a Wells Fargo senior vice president who is responsible for foreclosed commercial properties.
The home's former owners, Lawrence and Linda Elins, didn't respond to requests for an interview.
Their real estate agent, Irene Dazzan-Palmer, said she had tried to lease the home for the couple last spring after they were "devastated" by Madoff losses. But before she could find a renter, the couple signed over the property to Wells Fargo to help satisfy a larger debt, she said.
Wells Fargo subsequently denied requests to show the house to prospective buyers, said Dazzan-Palmer, a Coldwell Banker specialist in Malibu Colony properties.
Residents of the gated Malibu Colony said they obtained Guyton's name from the community's guards, who had issued her a homeowner's parking pass.
Colony residents said the woman they believe to be Guyton, along with her husband and two children, took up occupancy in home No. 106 in Malibu Colony shortly after Lawrence Elins turned it over to Wells Fargo Bank on May 13.
The residents said the family spent long weekends at the home and had guests over, including a large party the last weekend of August that featured a waterborne arrival.
"A yacht pulled up offshore, with one of those inflatable dinghies to take people back and forth to the shore," said Roman's wife, Elaine Johnson. "About 20 people got taken over in the dinghy."
Malibu Colony employees who were not authorized to speak publicly said the community association at the start of the summer had issued Guyton a parking permit of the type given to Colony homeowners.
When a Times reporter used the buzzer at the home's steel gate on Labor Day, a woman answered the intercom but declined to identify herself or come to the gate.
Asked whether the home had been foreclosed on, she said: "It's not foreclosed. It's owned by Collin Equities" -- a Wells Fargo unit that liquidates foreclosure properties.
The woman on the intercom denied that she was living at the house or had been using it periodically over the summer. Asked whether she could say why she was at the home, she answered, "No, I cannot."