Radio show host Warren Ballentine was known as “The People’s Attorney” for many years before his life took a turn for the worse. Ballentine found himself facing dozens of years for alleged bank fraud, when he was accused of bilking banks out of $10 million dollars on bad and fraudulent loans. Ballentine had served as the buyer’s attorney on the loans, which were based on inaccurate information.
The allegations were a surprise to many of Ballentine’s fans, especially since he’d only been practicing law for a few months. Also, according to Ballentine’s attorneys, he only earned a few hundred dollars for the legal work, while his co-defendants earned thousands. Ballentine was once one of the primary hosts on the Radio One Network and a close associate of Rev. Al Sharpton.
According to the Chicago Tribune, “The jury deliberated about an hour before finding Warren Ballentine guilty on all six counts of bank, mail and wire fraud and making false statements to lenders.
“As the verdict was read, Ballentine dropped his head slightly and whispered, ‘Oh, my God.’ U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly set sentencing for Jan. 21 for Ballentine, who remains free on bail. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, though his sentence under federal guidelines could be far less.
“At its peak, Ballentine’s three-hour daily radio show featured a wide range of issues affecting the African-American community and was syndicated on Radio One in 37 media markets, including Chicago. He billed himself as ‘the people’s attorney."
“Prosecutors alleged that Ballentine acted as the real estate lawyer at closings involving nearly 30 fraudulent loans. He knew that the buyers did not qualify to buy the properties in Chicago and the suburbs, authorities said. . . .”
Even before his trial began, Ballentine was dropped by Reach Media, which syndicates the Tom Joyner Morning Show. The decision to fire Ballentine was interesting, since his guilt had not yet been proven. Ballentine’s attorneys are alleging that Warren was merely a scapegoat in a larger scheme that he didn’t know much about. They say that he didn’t make very much money, and that under Illinois law, attorneys are not the ones who produce the documentation on real estate loans.
Here are a few arguments that Ballentine’s attorneys sent over to us:
- The indictments were from closings that happened in 2004 and 05.
- Warren opened his law office in dec of 2004.
- Prior to that, Warren had never done anything in real estate.
- In Illinois, the buyers attorney does none of the paper work.
- All the closings that the witnesses testified to happened within the first three months of warren opening his office.
- Warren had been a lawyer for 18 months prior to these closings and arrived at least 35 min late to all the closings in which paperwork had already been signed.
- Everyone who testified against Warren received 40 percent off their jail time.
- Not one person testified that Warren knew what they were doing or that it was fraudulent.
- Warren made the minimal fee of $350, while all the other people involved earned an average of 25k.
- Warren is looking at jail time for malpractice at best, but he’s not a criminal.
- Warren’s attorneys are asking that the public reach out to the White House and Valerie Jarrett to pardon an innocent man.
Ballentine’s attorneys are asking that he receive a pardon from President Obama. During the real estate boom of the early part of the last decade, thousands of Americans fabricated information on loan applications. Many of those at the top, including Wall Street bankers and bank executives, were never prosecuted, but a few consumers did end up facing charges.
The housing crisis started with a slew of bad loans. You know the story line: Lenders issued loans to borrowers for homes they couldn’t afford, who then defaulted on those loans. It all ended in tears and foreclosures.
Perhaps less well known is that fraud was a endemic during the housing bubble. A recent study found the lenders weren’t just making bad deals — they were falsifying documents in order to make loans look better on paper. Banks then sold these bogus mortgages to investors all over the world. The paper adds to the growing body of research that shows conclusively that banks knew they were writing bad loans, often in violation of their own lending standards.
Some examples of this fraud. A mortgage was made to look on paper like it was being taken out for a primary residence when it was really for an investment property. On paper, a buyer with two mortgages looked like he or she only had one. Credit scores were manipulated and appraisals were inflated.
Also, the United States Inspector General was heavily critical of the Department of Justice for not prosecuting many of the major mortgage fraud cases, especially those that involved high-ranking officials, many of whom were responsible for millions of dollars in losses and personally received millions in profit from fraudulent behavior. When put in its proper context, it’s difficult to argue that Ballentine’s indiscretions were on a scale that was anywhere near it needed to be in order to become a prosecutorial priority.
For the record, you should make sure that your bank loan information is as accurate as possible. Faulty information can lead to very serious charges. In terms of Ballentine, many believe that his conviction was harsh in light of the amount of money received and the fact that it’s not clear that Ballentine knew what was going on. Even if he knew what was going on, it doesn’t appear that he profited very much from the information.
Tell us what you think.