MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE PLOT
Lawyer Pleads Guilty in Metropolitan Money Store Scheme
Thursday, September 4, 2008
A lawyer who was charged with participating in the Metropolitan Money Store mortgage foreclosure scheme pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland said.
Richard Allison, 37, was doing legal work for the Metropolitan Money Store and two other Maryland companies that offered services to homeowners in financial trouble when he was enlisted in the fraud, the U.S. attorney's office said.
Targeting people who had significant equity in their homes but were having trouble making mortgage payments, employees of the Metropolitan Money Store promised to help the homeowners stave off foreclosure and fix their credit.
The homeowners were told to sign over their titles to third parties for a year so a more favorable mortgage could be obtained. Instead of helping homeowners, the now-defunct company extracted as much equity as it could from the homes by submitting fraudulent loan applications.
Allison, a U.S. Census Bureau employee, had started doing legal work for the Metropolitan Money Store and the other companies in December 2005. In March 2006, he agreed to serve as a third-party, or "straw," purchaser for two properties, in Fredericksburg and the District, the U.S. attorney's office said. As part of the scheme, straw purchasers were paid $10,000 for each property put in their name, the U.S. attorney's office said.
The plea by Allison yesterday at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt is the first in the case against several of the companies' principals, including Joy Jackson, president of the Metropolitan Money Store, and her husband, Kurt Fordham, president of one of the other companies implicated in the scheme.
As part of his agreement with the government, Allison must cooperate with investigators and prosecutors. He faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Judge Roger W. Titus scheduled sentencing for Sept. 12, 2009.