Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Hope Lefeber Wins Greatly Reduced Sentence in Mortgage Fraud, Money Laundering and Wire Fraud Case

Charged in a $14.6 million mortgage fraud case, one defendant turned to federal criminal defense attorney Hope C. Lefeber for help. Lefeber represented Jacqueline McCusker, of Bucks County, Pa., in a complex money laundering, wire fraud and mortgage fraud case (U.S. v. Edward McCusker et al., 2:09-cr-00771, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.). After Lefeber’s vigorous defense, however, the government’s case against Jacqueline McCusker essentially evaporated. While the other four defendants in the case will be spending time behind bars, Jacqueline McCusker was sentenced on March 6, 2014, to one year home confinement and an additional three years of probation. Following Lefeber’s forceful defense, U.S. District Judge Mary McLaughlin found that “the government, throughout these years of litigation, has failed to deliver on what was alleged in the indictment as to loss, intended or actual harm, or the status of the homeowners. There have been a lot of generalizations about these crimes but when it came to the trial and sentencing hearing, the facts were different.” (Order of March 5, 2014, pp. 16-17, Docket Entry #398.) The Judge agreed with Lefeber that the amount of loss was less than $400,000, a far cry from the $14.6 million originally charged by the government. The case stems from a foreclosure mortgage relief business that Ed McCusker and the codefendants set up, wherein homes were purchased from distressed homeowners and were rented back until the original owners were financially able to repurchase their homes. But the business model depended on the real estate market remaining hot, as the value of the home had to exceed the mortgage debt for the model to work. When the market fell in 2008, home values fell with it. “They did not intend to harm the homeowners. The foreclosure relief program ended up being a bad business model - perhaps from the beginning but certainly once the real estate market collapsed,” Judge McLaughlin wrote in her sentencing order filed March 5. “It was a bad business plan even from the point of view of the defendants. The McCuskers and Mr. Bariana lost everything. Even before indictment, it was clear that the homeowners were not able to pay the rent and the McCuskers and Bariana were stuck with the mortgages, taxes, and other expenses of the houses.” (Order of March 5, 2014, at pp. 17-18, Docket Entry #398.) In bringing the case, the government estimated the homeowners’ losses at more than $14 million. Judge McLaughlin, however, concluded the loss likely was closer to $400,000. She also noted that the lenders had been repaid, that many original homeowners were allowed to stay in the homes even when they couldn’t pay rent, and that the defendants had paid the mortgages and many other expenses on the homes. After Lefeber’s detailed and impassioned defense, Judge McLaughlin concluded that Jacqueline McCusker had barely been involved in the scheme and had intended to hurt no one. “The Court concludes that Mrs. McCusker got involved in this situation because her husband was ill and not able to be in the office,” McLaughlin wrote. “She was not as sophisticated as either her husband or Mr. Bariana as to mortgages. She did not think up this plan or talk to any of the homeowners in the first instance as the lead in explaining it.” (Docket Entry #398 at p.16.)