Jury to decide fate of former Miami-area mayor accused of mortgage fraud

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 15, 2014 7:34 PM

By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - A former south Florida mayor used her status in the Haitian community to lure individuals into a scheme to fraudulently obtain mortgages, prosecutors said on Monday during closing arguments in her fraud trial.

Marie Lucie Tondreau, 54, was indicted on six counts of wire fraud in May and faces up to 30 years in prison for allegedly helping her onetime fiancée Karl Oreste collect at least $11 million on behalf of straw buyers to finance 20 properties.

“Marie Lucie Tondreau was associated in some way with each of these transactions,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lois Foster-Steers. A jury in the Southern District of Florida will begin deliberations on Tuesday.

The scheme, according to court documents, took place from 2005 to 2008 when Tondreau was a well-known radio host before being elected North Miami’s first female Haitian-American mayor in 2013. She is suspended from her post while the case is pending.

Prosecutors said Tondreau was the linchpin, recruiting more than a dozen people, including a former employee of her immigration consulting firm who made $1,000 a month, to hand over their information. That employee was used to take out three mortgages worth nearly $1.7 million, Foster-Steers said.

Meanwhile Oreste, who pleaded guilty to seven wire fraud charges in July, was expected to testify against Tondreau during the two-week trial but was never called. Tondreau also did not take the stand in her own defense.

  Tondreau’s lawyers said Oreste used her in order to lend credibility to the scheme that netted participants $5,000 or more for their Social Security numbers and credit scores.

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“Lucie Tondreau was more than a girlfriend to this man, who unbeknownst to her had other interests,” said defense attorney Benedict Kuehne.

She is one of nearly a half dozen Miami-area mayors charged with wrongdoing in the past two years. Former Homestead Mayor Steven Bateman is due to be sentenced on Friday after a jury in September found him guilty of holding an illegal consulting job while in office.

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Editing by David Adams and Eric Beech)