The 12-person jury, which deliberated for only two hours, convicted Tondreau of conspiracy and wire-fraud charges after a two-week trial. Tondreau, who was elected as North Miami’s first Haitian-American female mayor in 2013, now faces up to 30 years in prison at her sentencing March 20.
U.S. District Judge Robert Scola refused to grant a request by her defense attorney, Ben Kuehne, to remain free on bond while she awaited sentencing. Scola said she used her “celebrity” and “hoodwinked” buyers into allowing their names to be placed on bogus loan applications in exchange for kickbacks in a “massive” fraud against various banks.
The judge, noting the fraud was committed before Tondreau was elected as mayor, said she was no different than any other convicted defendant and ordered her to surrender to U.S. Marshals in the courtroom while about 50 supporters watched in silence.
“I’m going to treat her like somebody who is what she is — a common criminal,” Scola said.
Kuehne, who represented Tondreau along with attorney Michael Davis, said the jury’s verdict “is as disappointing as it is unexpected.”
Tondreau, who was suspended from office after her arrest in May, stood trial in Miami federal court since early December on charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud with her ex-business partner and fiancé, Karl Oreste, and two other defendants, who are fugitives. She was accused of plotting with Oreste to bamboozle banks into loaning them a total of $11million between 2005 and 2008.
The prosecution decided not to call the trial’s potential star witness, Oreste, 57, who pleaded guilty in July and was expected to detail the 20 crooked real estate loan deals that he and Tondreau were accused of putting together.
Prosecutors Lois Foster-Steers and Gera Peoples did not say why. But they may have had concerns about Oreste’s potential vulnerability on cross-examination. Tondreau’s defense team had planned to portray him as the consummate con man who duped her into playing an unwitting supporting role to fleece the banks.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
"I’m going to treat her like somebody who is what she is — a common criminal.
That was Judge Scola after "North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau was found guilty by a federal jury Tuesday of using her 'celebrity' as a Haitian-American community leader to lure 'straw buyers' into an $11 million mortgage fraud scheme during the past real estate boom." (Via the Miami Herald). More: