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United States v. Isgar

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

January 13, 2014

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Gilbert Barry ISGAR; Vincent Wallace Aldridge; Tori Elyse Aldridge, Defendants-Appellants.

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Eileen K. Wilson (argued), Assistant U.S. Attorney, Renata Ann Gowie, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Houston, TX, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

James Scott Sullivan (argued), Esq., San Antonio, TX, Letitia D. Quinones (argued), Quinones & Associates, P.L.L.C., Houston, TX, Fred L. Garrett, II (argued), Garrett Law Firm, Alvin, TX, for Defendants-Appellants.

Vincent Wallace Aldridge Seagoville, TX, pro se.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Before OWEN and HAYNES, Circuit Judges, and LEMELLE,[*] District Judge.

PRISCILLA R. OWEN, Circuit Judge:

This case arises from a mortgage fraud scheme. At the conclusion of a jury trial, Vincent Wallace Aldridge and Tori Elyse Aldridge (the Aldridges), and Gilbert Barry Isgar (collectively, Defendants) were convicted of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1343, and 1349, aiding and abetting wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 1343, conspiracy to engage in money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h), and aiding and abetting money laundering under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 1957. The Defendants appeal their convictions. We affirm.

I

The Defendants' convictions arose out of the sale of nine newly constructed town homes in the Memorial Park area of Houston, Texas. The properties at issue were in a development called " Maxie Village" and were built by Waterford Custom Homes. Isgar owned 50% of Waterford.

The closings were conducted by the First Southwestern Title Company (FSW), which was operated by the Aldridges and for whom Vincent Aldridge was also a fee attorney doing business as Aldridge & Associates. The Aldridges were both authorized signers on Aldridge & Associates' Interest Only Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA).

The Aldridges recruited three " straw purchasers" to buy eight of the town homes. Vincent Aldridge purchased the ninth. The straw purchasers were individuals who wanted to invest in real estate and were told that they would receive $10,000 for each property they purchased; that they would not have to pay the mortgages because tenants would be found to lease the properties; and that after approximately

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one year, the residences would be resold and the straw purchasers might receive additional money at that time. These straw purchasers provided the Aldridges with their respective names, social security numbers, and income information. The Aldridges then used the accurate names and social security numbers, combined with falsified information about income, assets, and intent to use the property as a primary residence, to submit fraudulent loan applications to lenders. The false representations that each purchaser would be residing in the home purchased permitted the Aldridges to obtain 100% financing.

Isgar inflated the sale price of the properties through falsified construction invoices and amendments to the sales contracts. The lenders approved loans to purchase the properties at these inflated practices. When the lenders wired the loan amounts to FSW, disbursements were made to Isgar as payment for the properties. However, other disbursements were made to Aldridge & Associates' IOLTA as well as to Superb Construction that were not disclosed on the settlement statement to the lenders, as required by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The United States mail, including interstate commercial carriers, and wire communications were used to execute this scheme. Loan documents traveled across state lines by facsimile, mail and email. Loan proceeds were wire transferred from the lenders' banks to FSW.

Also involved in the scheme were Alvin Eiland, a mortgage broker, and his employee, Gary Robinson. Robinson assisted Vincent Aldridge in forming Superb Construction, which laundered proceeds from these transactions. Both Eiland and Robinson have pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering and are not parties to this appeal.

A federal grand jury returned a 19-count indictment charging the Aldridges with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1343, 1349 (Count 1), aiding and abetting wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 1343 (Counts 2-12), conspiracy to engage in money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h) (Count 13), and aiding and abetting money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 1957 (Counts 14-19). Isgar was named only in Counts 1-13. A jury returned a guilty verdict as to all three defendants on all counts.

The Defendants appeal their convictions on multiple grounds. Each asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction. The Aldridges challenge subject matter jurisdiction and venue. They further contend that they are entitled to a new trial because certain FSW documents should not have been admitted, there was prosecutorial misconduct, and that the cumulative errors denied them a fair trial.[1] Tori Aldridge contends that her indictment was constructively amended, and that the district court erred in the denying her motion for new trial and request for ...


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