|The lure of easy money was enough to convince three attorneys in two states to break the law and avoid financial obligations to their real estate and mortgage clients.
Vincent J. Whibbs Jr. had a good career as a lawyer and a good name in Florida's panhandle. His father was the late mayor of Pensacola, he worked in a law firm with his son and once ran for Congress against Joe Scarborough, a former U.S. House member who now hosts cable and radio talk shows.
But Whibbs, 61, has been disbarred and faces up to 65 years in prison after admitting he stole nearly $700,000 from client's real estate trust accounts.
Court records filed in Escambia County, Fla., show that Whibbs pleaded no contest to embezzlement as well as mortgage fraud and racketeering.
Whibbs was also disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court late last year, court records show.
The fraud charge stems from an assisted living facility in Pensacola. Documents show that Whibbs convinced a couple to invest in the property under the guise he had an interest in the facility, when in fact he didn't.
Whibbs will be sentenced in August. He is free on bond.
Also disbarred from practicing law in Florida is Manuel "Manny" Arvesu, according to a state Supreme Court order.
Arvesu, 50, commingled personal and operating funds within a mortgage trust account, the court said. "When (Arvesu) was asked to provide supporting documentation to address (the) transactions ... he was unable to do so," according to the order.
Court records show that Arvesu was the closing attorney involving a mortgage for about $65,000. After the mortgage was not paid off, a complaint was made to the Florida Bar Association, which conducted an audit that uncovered the problems.
Court documents also show that Arvesu allegedly used some the funds for his personal use, including purchasing luxury cars, jewelry and home electronics.
MortgageDaily.com reported in September that Arvesu was suspended for 30 days. He is no longer able to practice law in the state.
In Kentucky suspended lawyer Dean Sexton has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme that federal prosecutors say cost lenders from $400,000 to $1 million.
Sexton, 43, pleaded guilty to charges he conspired with two others to defraud several mortgage lenders, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office for the Western District of Kentucky.
Prosecutors said the scheme involved using phony loan documents, including loan applications and HUD documents, as well as fraudulent information about borrowers' employment, income, assets, down payments and credit reports.
"The plea agreement ... stated that Sexton closed 12 loans in which he, as the closing attorney, falsely represented to the lenders that the buyers made payments at closings," prosecutors said. "During the closing of each of these 12 loans, Sexton and his co-conspirators induced the lenders to fund these loans through these false representations."
Two others -- Stan Siwek and Santiago Cruz -- have previously pleaded guilty in the scheme and are awaiting sentencing.