In March of 2010, a bank called Park Avenue Bank failed. The former bank president subsequently became the first person in the United States who was convicted of stealing funds provided to bail out banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Now, a businessman named Wilbur Huff, who was accused of collaborating with the former bank president, has also been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. According to Business Insider, Wilbur Huff pled guilty to what a Manhattan U.S. Attorney described as a “vortex of fraud.”
Huff was allegedly involved in multiple different fraud schemes, which led to federal charges. Federal fraud cases typically carry much more serious penalties than state charges for fraud and those who are accused of federal crimes need to understand what defenses or options for plea deals may be available. Not every attorney handles federal fraud cases, so those who are charged need to be represented by a lawyer with experience in mail fraud, bank fraud, and similar white collar crimes that violate federal laws.
Federal Charges for Fraud Crimes
A New York U.S. District Judge indicated that Huff had a “staggering” history of wrong doing that first began in the 1990s and that continued even after Huff was charged with mail fraud in 2003 and pled guilty. Many people involved in fraud schemes end up being charged with either mail or wire fraud because a defendant can be convicted of these offenses any time the postal service or wire communications are used in any way to further a fraud scam.
In this most recent case, Huff pled guilty to multiple offenses that allegedly were committed over the past several years. Huff was accused of conspiring with the former president of Park Avenue Bank, as well as with another bank executive, to fake a $6.5 million cash infusion to the bank. The imaginary investment made it easier for the bank president to secure more TARP funds. Under the federal code, a person who conspires to commit any criminal offense can be charged not just for his own role in the conspiracy but also for actions that co-conspirators may take in order to further the criminal plot.
Huff was also accused of scamming millions of dollars by convincing the bankers to send fake letters of credit. These letters led to Park Avenue Bank providing substantial loans to Huff’s companies, which were not credit worthy. In one case, Huff conspired with the bankers to fraudulently obtain a $30 million loan to buy an insurance company, while using assets belonging to the insurance company as collateral. The insurance company that was purchased became insolvent, as did Park Avenue Bank.
In addition to the other claims of wrongdoing, Huff was also accused of participation in a $53 million tax scheme and was accused of embezzling client funds through one of his companies.
Huff was facing decades of imprisonment based on these and other offenses. Bank fraud alone carries a maximum fine of $1 million and a maximum of 30 years imprisonment under 18 U.S. Code Section 1344. Taking out fraudulent loans can be classified as a form of bank fraud, as can any scheme in which the likely outcome of a fraud scheme is to deprive a financial institution of funds.
Rather than fighting the charges against him, Huff pled guilty to the various federal offenses that he was accused of committing.
Whenever you are accused of a federal crime, it is necessary to determine if a guilty plea is the right choice. While a guilty plea can result in a reduced sentence or even being charged with a less serious offense, you give up the opportunity to try to avoid conviction if you admit guilt. A federal criminal defense lawyer should be consulted in fraud cases and when you are facing other federal charges so you can decide if pleading guilty makes sense in your situation.