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Chael Sonnen Pleads Guilty to Federal Money Laundering Charges
According to the Columbian, former UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen has plead guilty to federal money laundering charges:
An Oregon real estate agent has pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with a mortgage fraud case involving Vancouver-based Lighthouse Financial Group, which also did business under the name Crown Point Financial Services.
Chael Sonnen, 33, of West Linn, Ore., entered the plea Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland. He will be sentenced March 28. The maximum sentence is 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
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.
This latest development follows Sonnen's positive test for elevated testosterone levels after his UFC 117 loss to Anderson Silva. It also seems to run parallel with the story of Sonnen bowing out of a political race in Oregon due to a "legal issue" in 2006. He told Mike Straka in an exclusive HDNet interview following his hearing with the California Athletic Commission that there was a legal issue, but it was being taken care of by his lawyers. Perhaps this is a part of a plea deal in the long-term, but this doesn't look good for Sonnen.
UPDATE [from Luke Thomas]: Here's the press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oregon on Chael Sonnen's crime
January 03, 2011
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 buyers 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 Sonnens 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 countrys economic downturn and wreaked havoc on our communitys 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.
I feel bad for Sonnen.