Yesterday, an Ohio resident was indicted for allegedly engaging in a fraud scheme that promised to fund more than $500 million in mortgage loans to around 20 churches and a dozen small businesses across the country. The man, Jamal Lawson, fraudulently obtained more than $300,000 in advance fees that he used for personal expenses instead of securing loans as he had promised. Three of the churches were located in Chicago, Illinois and others located in Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, and Virginia.
Lawson was charged with three counts of wire fraud in an indictment and will be ordered to appear for an arraignment in U.S. District Court. The indictment seeks forfeiture of at least $308,000, which represents the amount that Lawson allegedly fraudulently obtained and used for such personal expenses as travel, clothing, food and cars.
According to the indictment, between June 2009 and December 2010, Lawson offered to provide loans to pastors of churches and owners of small businesses through one of his companies: Evangel Capital Group LLC and Evangel Capital Partners Ltd., Ascendant Capital Partners LLC and Ascendant Commercial Mortgage, and Destiny Capital Group LLC and Destiny Capital Partners Ltd. Lawson advertised low-interest loans to churches and small businesses and, after receiving a loan application, advised the borrowers that his companies had approved loans in amounts ranging from approximately $300,000 to $206 million and that firm closing dates had been set. Lawson allegedly knew that he lacked the ability to fund the loans through his companies and he had not secured funding or closing dates from other outside lenders.
As part of the scheme, Lawson allegedly told the borrowers that, before any loans would be disbursed, they were required to pay certain advance fees, in amounts ranging from approximately $1,250 to $35,000, that would be used to obtain appraisals, loan documents, title reports, and audited financial statements. The indictment alleges that Lawson directed the borrowers to pay the advance fees by mailing checks or transferring funds to accounts that he controlled.
Lawson told borrowers that he would refund their application fees if they did not receive the loans, knowing that he never intended to provide the actual loans, the charges allege. Altogether, Lawson allegedly promised to fund loans totaling at least $537.4 million to some 20 churches and 13 small businesses. In Chicago, he alleged defrauded one unnamed church of $3,950 in fees for a purported $742,000 mortgage loan; a second church of $4,000 in fees to provide a mortgage loan of $1,546,000; and a third church of $3,950 in fees for a $3,045,000 mortgage loan.
Lawson could face up to 20 years in prison with a $250,000 fine, and mandatory restitution – Source.
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