Real Estate & Property Law

Teary Attorney Who Cooperated with Feds and Tried to Atone for Mortgage Fraud Gets 2.5 Years

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Attorney Carol Asbury hoped to avoid prison for her role in a multimillion-dollar South Florida mortgage fraud, she told the ABA Journal last month.

Once she came to her senses and realized she had gotten seriously off track, she went to the feds and told them what she knew, helping them make a case against others, the 59-year-old said.

She also founded the Save My Home Law Group and worked to help homeowners facing foreclosure and paid $40,000 to sponsor the blog, which helped expose the mortgage lender robo-signing scandal, reports the Palm Beach Post.

But that and the teary apology she made in court today wasn’t enough to negate what she did, a federal judge said as he sentenced her to two and a half years in prison in what was described by the newspaper as a $2.5 million mortgage fraud.

“In my judgment, when you commit a multi-million-dollar fraud even in an otherwise law-abiding life, you can’t just say ‘I’m sorry’ and everything is forgiven,” said U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra. He gave Asbury a substantial reduction in the six-and-a-half-year term she could have gotten, due to her cooperation.

She pleaded guilty in September to conspiracies to commit money-laundering and mail and wire fraud.

The problem was, Asbury’s work as a title attorney helped others turn portions of the upscale Versailles development in Wellington into what the Post called a scavenger’s paradise as straw buyers defaulted on the mortgages used to purchase homes at inflated prices and squatters moved in. At one point, fraud was allegedly involved in the mortgages for half of the development’s 450 homes, although Asbury is not accused of responsibility for more than a fraction of the bad mortgages.

She and her husband said she was dealing with significant problems at home during the eight months in 2006 that she helped others defraud lenders by submitting fraudulent paperwork for mortgages that they didn’t qualify for. Asbury also told the ABA Journal last month that she relied too much on the work of non-attorneys rather than delving into real estate matters herself.

But, countered prosecutor Stephanie Evans, “This is not, ‘I did a couple of bad transactions.’ This is, ‘I engaged in criminal conduct over many, many months. I made lots of money and I helped others make millions.’ “

The Palm Beach Post article says Asbury has agreed to be disbarred. However, it appears from a Florida Bar directory that she is still currently in good standing and has not yet lost her license to practice law.

Earlier coverage: “Lawyer Who Fought Foreclosure Fraud Takes Federal Plea in Straw-Buyer Money-Laundering Conspiracy”

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