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Disbarred lawyer's second big conviction

Editorial Staff

James D Levitt is 66 years old and facing serious jail time. Aside from his latest conviction, he's behind on payments on a prior criminal conviction in respect of which he still owed more than USD400,000.

In early February 2012, Levitt of Rhode Island, USA, pleaded guilty to Federal charges of bank fraud and filing false tax returns.

The maximum sentence is jail of 96 years - and a fine of USD3.3 million.

Add that to his existing debt in respect of an earlier conviction and Levitt will owe the US government a large amount of money.

Levitt was a lawyer in Rhode Island and, between July 2006 and November 2007, he applied for and received three mortgages adding up to a total of USD1.1 million. With two of the loans, he bought two properties - one in Providence, Rhode Island and the other in East Providence.

But the purchases were a front: Levitt used the money to buy properties from a friend who was facing repossession of the properties as a result of loan default.

Levitt "induced" (says the FBI) a "business associate to apply for the loans by representing to him that they would be partners." The plan was to convert the properties into condominia and then sell them at a profit.

An FBI statement says "Levitt admitted that the mortgage applications and settlement statements contained false information; including failing to identify the true purchaser of the property and falsely stating that the buyer was putting a down payment in excess of USD100,000 for each property.

"Levitt admitted to the court that he conducted the [completions] on the properties despite his financial interest and despite the fact that he was a disbarred attorney.

"After the [completions], Levitt obtained and deposited the majority of the proceeds of the sale of the properties, approximately USD270,000, into bank accounts which he controlled. He provided USD25,000 of the proceeds to the seller of the properties shortly after [completion], and he later made periodic payments.

"However, Levitt admitted that he used the majority of the proceeds for his business and for personal expenses."

The properties were, eventually, repossessed.

The third loan was used to recycle a property owned by a company under his own control. He obtained that loan in his own name - but declared that there were no outstanding judgments against him. However, an order for restitution to the State of Rhode Island was outstanding - and that was for USD432,728.

In addition the income from these and other ventures was not disclosed in his tax return.

Proceedings were commenced last year in respect of Levitt's holding himself out as an attorney: the result of those proceedings is not known at the time of writing. In respect of the earlier criminal proceedings, Levitt was sentenced to five years in jail, which was reduced to three years on appeal.