MIAMI May 19 A Miami-area mayor has been
charged as part of an alleged mortgage fraud scheme that bilked
more than $8 million from lenders, officials said on Monday.
Marie Lucie Tondreau, the mayor of North Miami, faces up to
30 years in prison for six counts of wire fraud, federal
officials said in an unsealed indictment.
She is the fourth Miami area mayor to be indicted in the
last year, and the first woman.
Prosecutors allege the 54-year-old Tondreau, who last year
was elected North Miami's first female Haitian-American mayor,
used her weekly radio show and illegal cash payments to recruit
buyers to lie on mortgage applications to obtain loans that were
never used to buying homes.
Tondreau also received payments for recruiting fake buyers,
Benedict Kuehne, Tondreau's lawyer, said in a statement that
she is not guilty and intends to be vindicated.
"Mayor Tondreau is surprised and disappointed that she and
her legal team were given no opportunity to speak with the
prosecutors about this charge in advance," Kuehne said.
Three others, including a mortgage company owner, a radio
show host and a former attorney, were also charged in the
Manuel Maroño, a former mayor of Sweetwater, a Miami suburb,
began serving a 40-month sentence in February after pleading
guilty to accepting thousands of dollars of kickbacks for
signing off on bogus government grant applications.
He was indicted along with Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi,
who has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Steve Bateman, a former mayor of Homestead, was arrested
last year on corruption charges for allegedly failing to
disclose that he worked as a paid consultant for a health clinic
company looking to expand in the city.
He was also charged with improper use of campaign funds. He
has pleaded not guilty.
Former Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina was acquitted by a Miami
federal jury in April on charges of conspiring to avoid paying
taxes on $2 million in income and lying to authorities.
(Editing by Kevin Gray. Editing by Andre Grenon)