Georgia Mortgage Fraud Scheme Included Augusta Lawyer

29 12 2008

Mortgage fraud is now estimated as costing Americans $4 billion to $6 billion annually, according to the FBI.

  • In the Augusta area, there have been several prosecutions, including one scheme involving a lawyer. William O. Key Jr. was eventually caught and prosecuted in federal court. He had to surrender his law license after his guilty plea.
  • He admitted he schemed with mortgage brokers Robert C. Thigpen and Erich J. Haskell, defrauding banks and the government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Key, in his role as the closing agent, was in on the deals, part of a half-million-dollar loss in foreclosures.
  • Mr. Key’s illegal dealings went further, according to court documents. He assisted in a huge Atlanta-area mortgage fraud scheme that involved nearly two dozen people. He was able to have his federal prison term trimmed to 12 months by testifying in that case for the federal prosecutor.

    Mr. Key might have been involved in fraud long before he appeared on the FBI’s radar, however. Several years before his indictment, fraud allegations were raised in a civil lawsuit against Mr. Key.

    A Richmond County Superior Court lawsuit was filed by Theodore Murray and Adie Andrews in 2002. It was dismissed the next year with a confidential settlement agreement. According to the lawsuit, Ms. Andrews owned property in Warren County, Ga., the title of which was free and clear. Mr. Murray bought a $57,992 trailer home to place on the property. He made a $2,000 down payment to the dealer who had sent him to Mr. Key for financing, according to the Superior Court documents.

    Mr. Key arranged a deal that included false claims that the purchase price was $88,200 and that Mr. Murray made a $29,301 down payment. The government documents also failed to disclose Mr. Key’s connection to the mortgage company that is owned by his wife, according to court documents.

    Mr. Murray was put in danger of losing the trailer home if he didn’t pay off the 30-year total loan payment of $267,870. Ms. Andrews was in danger of losing her property because the loan was secured by a lien attached to her property at Mr. Key’s insistence, according to the lawsuit.