WALNUT CREEK -- A Walnut Creek real estate investor known for flipping homes has been indicted on two charges of wire fraud, federal prosecutors announced Friday.

According to an indictment, Benny Chetcuti,¿ Jr. allegedly defrauded private investors who loaned money to him and his business, Walnut Creek-based Chetcuti & Associates, as early as October 2002. Chetcuti started his real estate business in 1998 in order to buy homes, renovate them and sell them within a short period of time for profit.

Chetcuti financed his business, in part, by obtaining loans from private investors. He promised investors that he would repay them with proceeds from the sales of the properties, according to the indictment.

However, Chetcuti allegedly misled investors by lying about how much debt was already secured by the properties, falsely promising to record deeds that would have secured investors' interests in the properties, telling others to impersonate lenders or title company officers in phone calls and forging letters purportedly written by lenders and title company officers.

The maximum penalty for each count of wire fraud is 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross loss or gain resulting from the offenses, plus restitution and forfeiture, the indictment stated.

Chetcuti is set to appear Wednesday in federal court in Oakland.

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