'People's Attorney' Charged With Fraud
CHICAGO (CN) - Federal prosecutors charged attorney and talk show radio host Warren Ballentine, "The People's Attorney," with a $9.7 million series of mortgage frauds.
Ballentine, 41, runs his law office out of suburban Country Club Hills. The New York Times called him "one of black talk radio's new stars," and "black liberal counterprogramming" to Rush Limbaugh, in a July 2008 article.
Ballentine, who calls himself "The People's Attorney," hosts The Warren Ballentine Show, a nationally syndicated three-hour radio show focused on African-American issues.
But according to the 21-page indictment, he and others defrauded eight banks of $9.7 million in 28 mortgage loans.
Ballentine "schemed with others to obtain more than two dozen fraudulent mortgage loans and represented buyers at multiple closings, knowing that they were fraudulently qualified for loans to purchase homes in Chicago and various southern suburbs," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.
He is charged with two counts of bank fraud, two counts of making false statements to lenders, and one count each of mail fraud and wire fraud. The grand jury indictment also seeks forfeiture of $9,775,000 in ill-gotten gains.
He allegedly defrauded the banks between December 2004 and May 2006.
"It was further part of the scheme that defendant Warren Ballentine was paid for serving as an attorney in transactions where defendant Ballentine knew buyers were signing and submitting false documents to lenders," the indictment states.
"It was further part of the scheme that defendant Warren Ballentine, co-schemer
Bobbie Brown, and others, did misrepresent, conceal, and hide, and caused to be misrepresented, concealed, and hidden, acts done in furtherance of the scheme and the purpose of those acts."
The indictment adds: "It was part of the scheme that Warren Ballentine, together with co-schemers Wanda-Rivera Burton and Brenda Tibbs, and others, fraudulently caused lenders to make at least twenty mortgage loans totaling at least approximately $6.1 million by making materially false representations in documents submitted to lenders, including loan applications, HUD-1 settlement statements, and occupancy statements, concerning, among other things, buyers' intention to use properties they purchased as a primary residence, and for the purpose of executing the scheme caused interstate wire transmissions."
Ballentine is the only defendant in the indictment.
His show featured an interview with President Obama on Election Day 2012, and he has hosted Hilary Clinton and Al Sharpton. The show claims a nationwide audience of 3 million listeners, according to The New York Times reported.
If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison on each count, plus a $1 million fine, or twice the gross gain or loss of each transaction. Restitution is mandatory.