Advertising

The Seattle Times Company

NWjobs | NWautos | NWhomes | NWsource | Free Classifieds | seattletimes.com

Local News


Our network sites seattletimes.com | Advanced

Originally published April 1, 2010 at 11:42 AM | Page modified April 2, 2010 at 11:01 AM

Comments (0)     E-mail E-mail article      Print Print      Share Share

Disbarred Bothell attorney convicted of fraud

A federal jury Thursday convicted disbarred Bothell attorney Robert Ernest Brandt of conspiracy and four out of five wire-fraud charges in connection with a massive mortgage-fraud case that led to dozens of foreclosures and millions in losses to lenders.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A federal jury Thursday convicted disbarred Bothell attorney Robert Ernest Brandt of conspiracy and four out of five wire-fraud charges in connection with a massive mortgage-fraud case that led to dozens of foreclosures and millions in losses to lenders.

Brandt was acquitted of one count of wire fraud by the 12-member jury, which began deliberations Thursday morning, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Vincent T. Lombardi. The panel returned just before 5 p.m. with the verdict.

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones set sentencing for June 25.

Brandt was the only one of six people who were indicted in 2008 who did not accept a government plea deal in the case. The others all testified against him during his weeklong trial. In closing arguments Wednesday, government lawyers said Brandt allowed his high-volume mortgage company, Escrow Authority, to be used to perpetrate a fraud between 2002 and 2005 with losses now estimated at more than $7 million.

While co-defendant William Anderson, a longtime friend and sometime client, was responsible for much of the financial misdeeds, Brandt "had knowledge of it, participated in it, and benefitted from it," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Brown.

Defense attorney Michael Nance said Brandt was guilty of nothing more than bad judgment and poor business sense. He said Brandt had been betrayed and used by Anderson, whom he had thought was a friend.

Nance told jurors to discount the testimony of Brandt's fellow defendants, who were trying to mitigate their own sentences by piling the blame on his client.

Brown pointed out that Anderson — who pleaded guilty just days before Brandt's trial had a shady history that Brandt was well aware of: Brandt had defended Anderson against previous fraud allegations.

Brown said Brandt, who spent nearly a full day on the witness stand, has "problems with the truth" and wants to blame everyone but himself. "The defense theory is that everyone else is lying," Brown said.

Nance said that his client told the "substantial truth," and that reluctance or discrepancies in his testimony was because Brandt was reluctant to admit "he'd been duped at every level."

"Robert Brandt is not a schemer, he's not a conspirator," Nance said. "He's a regular guy who succeeded too fast."

The 41-year-old Brandt faces six felonies, all stemming from the operation of Escrow Authority, which had offices in Kent, Bellingham and Yakima.

advertising

According to the indictment and other court documents, Brandt and his partner, Anderson, "used their position of trust to orchestrate a massive fraud scheme that exploited loose underwriting standards in the mortgage industry to siphon off millions of dollars from fraudulently obtained loans."

Lombardi said the pair operated a classic "credit investor" scam, which involved buying a property then quickly selling it to a straw buyer at a substantially higher price. The straw buyer would be paid to falsify loan documents for the larger amount, and then close the purchase through Escrow Authority.

Brandt, the government alleged, then would falsify documents assuring the lender that the money was being properly disbursed.

The documents allege that Brandt and Anderson would often fund the initial purchases with money improperly drawn from the trust account dedicated to Brandt's law practice, which at times saw as much as $28 million a month move through it because of the volume of business Escrow Authority was turning.

Brandt surrendered his law license in 2005 because of complaints to the Washington State Bar arising from irregularities in the trust account.

With his conviction, he now faces up to 20 years in prison, and fines of up to $1 million.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com

E-mail E-mail article      Print Print      Share Share

More Local News

UPDATE - 09:46 AM
Exxon Mobil wins ruling in Alaska oil spill case

NEW - 7:51 AM
Longview man says he was tortured with hot knife

Longview man says he was tortured with hot knife

Longview mill spills bleach into Columbia River

NEW - 8:00 AM
More extensive TSA searches in Sea-Tac Airport rattle some travelers

More Local News headlines...

Comments
No comments have been posted to this article.


Get home delivery today!

Video

Advertising

AP Video

Entertainment | Top Video | World | Offbeat Video | Sci-Tech

Marketplace

Advertising