A Hennepin County jury on Wednesday convicted Twin Cities real estate agent Larry Maxwell of mortgage fraud that authorities say began just as his probation for an earlier fraud conviction was ending.
The 54-year-old Minneapolis man was found guilty of all 18 counts against him after a six-week trial. Judge Regina Chu ordered him handcuffed and taken into custody over the protests of his attorney, Larry Reed.
Prosecutor Brad Johnson told jurors that Maxwell was the dealmaker in nine property transactions stretching from Bloomington to Blaine, in which he obtained more than $2 million in loans using fraudulent documents. The deals employed forgery, identity theft, and bogus loan applications.
The jury convicted Maxwell of nine counts of theft by swindle, six of aggravated forgery, two of identity theft and one of racketeering. Two other participants in the scheme pleaded guilty earlier. A fourth has been charged, and more charges are possible.
"This is the biggest case, and we're very pleased," County Attorney Mike Freeman said after the verdicts.
Maxwell pleaded guilty in 2001 to submitting false documents to qualify a borrower for a federally insured loan, one of 18 counts against him then.
The government alleges that Maxwell made real estate commissions from his deals and profited from fees and kickbacks arising from his role as mortgage loan officer. Reed claimed others duped Maxwell.
A parade of high-profile figures testified for Maxwell, including former Minnesota Vikings punter Greg Coleman, activist Spike Moss, sportswriter Larry Fitzgerald Sr. and the Rev. Jerry McAfee.
For Plymouth couple John Foster and Melony Micheals, the conviction ended an ordeal that began in 2006 when they found a mortgage statement in their mailbox for a north Minneapolis house about which they knew nothing.
With help from a realtor friend, Micheals used records to piece together details of the purchase of that house and another in Bloomington purchased with Foster's identity.
"It's been almost three years of complete devastation," Micheals said. "We lost all our credit." The couple were unable to buy a car, refinance their home or co-sign on college loans for children, she said.
They withdrew from their 401(k) to pay bills while their credit card interest rate jumped to over 30 percent, she said. She said she's spent a year and a half and more than a thousand hours to track down files, straighten out their credit and persuade someone to take their case.
Chu is expected to rule on a set of related fraud charges pending against Realty Executive Advantage Plus Group, the real estate brokerage operating out of Maxwell's riverfront house. In another development, Chu found Reed in contempt of court after a series of courtroom clashes.
Charges of racketeering and theft by swindle are pending against Bernard Holmes in connection with Maxwell's fraudulent deals. Tyrone T. Williams, who bought four of the Maxwell properties as Donald Williams, and Jerome Kingrussell, who posed as Foster, pleaded guilty to charges related to the schemes.
Investigators also relied on information from a Maryland woman who purchased six properties through Maxwell. Prosecutors alleged that he used her as a straw buyer to fraudulently obtain commissions and loan proceeds.
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438