Chael Sonnen Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering, Faces up to 20 Years, $500,000 Fine

Mo' money mo' problems? Yeah, if you get that money via scandal.

Chael Sonnen has a lot more to worry about than a simple licensing suspension, via the Lake Oswego Review:

A licensed Realtor from West Linn, Sonnen admitted before a judge Monday that he conducted a financial transaction designed to hide or disguise the ownership and control of proceeds of mortgage fraud, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

Marcus Williams, a special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigations for the Pacific Northwest, issued a public statement about Sonnen’s case.

"West Linn residents, and other residents throughout the Portland-Vancouver area, can rest assured knowing that federal law enforcement agencies take mortgage fraud very seriously because it played a major role in almost crippling this nation’s banking system just a few years ago," he said.

The penalty for money laundering is up to 20 years in prison, and a $500,000 fine.  This is the "legal issue" that caused Sonnen to drop out of his political running in Oregon.  I can think of quite a few Brazilians who are getting a good chuckle with this news coming out.

Update by Bix: More details, this time from from The Columbian...

According to a news release, Sonnen acted as the real estate agent in a transaction involving a home in Portland, and submitted a false letter and sales agreement instructing the title company to disburse $69,000 to a contractor for plumbing repairs. However, in a deal arranged by Lighthouse employees, $65,000 of the money was actually kicked back to the buyer.

Federal prosecutors allege that two Lighthouse employees, Joel Rosabal and Chadwick Amsden, submitted the false loan application to a now-defunct subprime lender.

I believe the term that the kids use is "LOL."

And from the DOJ press release:

Chael Sonnen Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering Related to Mortgage Fraud

PORTLAND, Ore. - Chael Sonnen, 33, of West Linn, Oregon, plead guilty today to one count of money laundering in federal court before the Honorable Michael Mosman. Sentencing is scheduled on March 28, 2011 at 11:30 a.m.

Sonnen, a licensed realtor in the State of Oregon, admitted that a financial transaction he conducted was designed to conceal or disguise the ownership and control of the proceeds of wire fraud. The scheme involved Joel Rosabal and Chadwick Amsden, employees of Crown Point Enterprises, dba Lighthouse Financial Group (Lighthouse), a mortgage brokerage service based principally in Vancouver, Washington, with operations in Oregon and elsewhere. Rosabal and Amsden submitted a materially false loan application on the buyer’s behalf to Decision One Mortgage, a subprime lending institution that is now defunct, for the purchase of residential property located at 11249 SE Rolling Hills Lane, Portland, Oregon. Sonnen acted as the realtor for the transaction. Sonnen submitted a false letter and Sales Agreement Addendum instructing the title company to pay loan proceeds to a plumbing company for repairs to the home. In fact, Sonnen knew and had negotiated with Rosabal that no repairs would be performed on the home and the funds designated to the plumbing company would instead be paid to the buyer as a cash incentive to purchase the home. This agreement was not disclosed to Decision One Mortgage. Once the loan was funded, the title company paid over $69,000 to the plumbing company and the plumbing company, in turn and at Sonnen’s direction, paid $65,000 to the buyer of the home.

"This office will continue to aggressively prosecute real estate professionals who committed the mortgage fraud that contributed to this country’s economic downturn and wreaked havoc on our community’s housing market. We entrusted these professionals to honestly broker real estate transactions and instead, they defrauded lending institutions throughout the country and left financial ruin in their wake," said Dwight Holton, U. S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

Marcus Williams, the Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigations for the Pacific Northwest said, "West Linn residents, and other residents throughout the Portland/Vancouver area, can rest assured knowing that federal law enforcement agencies take mortgage fraud very seriously because it played a major role in almost crippling this nation's banking system just a few years ago."

Money Laundering carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

There are currently two other cases related to Lighthouse pending in the United States District Court of Oregon, United States v. Joel Rosabal et al., USDC Case No. 10-CR-00195 and United States v. Chadwick Amsden, et al., USDC Case No. 10-CR-00196. In addition, three other defendants have pled guilty and have been sentenced to charges related to Lighthouse as well: United States v. Kamau Herndon, USDC Case No. 09-CR-00068, United States v. Marty Folwick, USDC Case No. 08-CR-00280, United States v. Kristen Buse, Case No. 08-CR-00283.

This investigation was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service. The case against Chael Sonnen is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Michelle Holman Kerin. The pending cases involving Lighthouse are being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Michelle Holman Kerin and Allan Garten.

And from Oregon Live:

As part of his plea deal, Sonnen agreed to give up his Realtor's license and pay a $10,000 fine, said Michelle Holman Kerin, the assistant U.S. attorney handling the case.

Anyone wanna come up with a good jail/Chael pun?

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