Marie Lucie Tondreau, the mayor of North Miami, Florida, is on trial in federal court in Miami, facing charges that she took part in an alleged mortgage fraud scheme that defrauded lenders to the tune of $8 million.
Prosecutors say that Tondreau, who was elected as North Miami’s mayor in 2013, used her weekly radio show and illegal cash payment to recruit buyers to lie on mortgage applications to obtain loans that were never used to buying homes, according to a report from Reuters.
Tondreau faces six counts of wire fraud and up to 30 years in prion for her role in the alleged scheme, which prosecutors say was conducted from 2005 to 2008, before she was elected mayor.
From the Reuters report:
Prosecutors said Tondreau paid relatives and listeners of her radio show up to $5,000 each to take part in the scheme that ended with her renting out at least 20 properties and using the proceeds for clothes and other purchases.
“When Ms. Tondreau took to the airwaves to promote this mortgage company she brought a sense of credibility,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lois Foster-Steers.
But Tondreau's attorneys said her advocacy for Haitian immigrants and notoriety as a critic of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier made her the ideal target for a mortgage company owner looking to secure financing with fabricated information.
In court Tuesday, Tondreau’s lawyer told a jury that Tondreau herself was a victim of Karl Oreste, the leader of the scheme. Oreste pleaded guilty to seven wire fraud charges in July and is due to be sentenced in early 2015. He is expected to testify against Tondreau, Reuters said.
In May, Florida Governor Rick Scott suspended Tondreau from her role as mayor.
“Lucie was helping people come up in life, she wasn't helping in fraud,” defense attorney Michael Davis said in court Tuesday.