NAPLES — A 29-year-old East Naples contractor was sentenced today to 31⁄3 years in a federal prison for filing false mortgage applications so he and his wife could obtain $3.349 million in loans for six homes.
“You’re not the first young man who, because you were overly aggressive or overly enthusiastic, participated in real estate the wrong way,” U.S. District Court Judge John Steele told Scott Fawcett of 70th St. S.W., a general contractor and landscaper. “... If I read the charges right, your wife should be standing up here as a defendant.”
But he noted that the government chose not to prosecute her.
“... You knew what you were doing and you kept doing it,” Steele said before imposing the prison term, which will be followed by five years of supervised release.
The judge agreed to let him surrender after his wife, Heather, 28, completes her nursing final exams, and ordered him to begin his term by May 17. Before that, he must attend an April 29 restitution hearing to finalize the amounts he must reimburse lenders for their $1.485 million loss : $874,123 to CitiMortgage, with other amounts to be determined to Bank United and J.P. Morgan Chase.
On Oct. 20, Fawcett waived presentation of his case to a grand jury and was charged with one count in an information that he pleaded guilty to on Dec. 30.
The plea agreement requires him to cooperate with federal prosecutors in mortgage fraud cases, including one against Debra Landberg, 43, who was a branch manager at Wachovia Bank on Airport-Pulling Road. Landberg, who lives on Darby Court in Naples, was indicted on charges of helping the Fawcetts fill out false verifications of deposit, faking what they had in their bank accounts and listing some hefty bank accounts that didn’t exist.
She’s set for trial in July.
Of the $3.349 million in loans on six homes purchased by Fawcett or his wife, three were foreclosed on. The $1.485 million loss is the difference in the mortgage amount and the foreclosure price or the reduction in the taxable value of homes not foreclosed on.
In one mortgage application, it said Heather Fawcett had two bank accounts, one with $153,209.09, when there really was a $13.57 balance. The application also claimed there was an account with a $200,000 balance, but it never existed.
In another, Scott Fawcett claimed one of his bank accounts had a $78,131.57 balance, when it really had $13.57, and he also claimed to have $99,542.01 in another that contained $943.61; he then deposited $1,485.33 that day.
The homes involved were:
-- a $515,000 Naples Park duplex on 109th Street that was purchased with a $412,000 mortgage in Heather Fawcett’s name that sold for $130,000 after foreclosure;
-- a home on 48th Terrace Southwest in Golden Gate purchased with a $297,000 loan in both their names that now has a $212,729 taxable value;
-- a home on Nottingham Drive in the Victoria Park development in North Naples purchased with a $388,000 loan in Heather Fawcett’s name that now has a $337,277 taxable value;
-- a home on Bonita Lane in Royal Harbor home Scott Fawcett bought with a $1.5 million loan while cashing out $264,952.92 that sold for $685,000 after foreclosure;
-- a home on 14th Street N.E. in Golden Gate Estates that was purchased with a $360,000 loan in Heather Fawcett’s name that sold for $107,000 after foreclosure.
-- a condominium in Punta Gorda in Charlotte County that Scott Fawcett purchased with a $389,481.61 loan that’s now owned by another lender.
Collier Court records show Fawcett was named as a defendant in a dozen mortgage foreclosures filed in Collier County in 2007 and 2008, and is a defendant in seven lawsuits involving money owed or services not completed. The IRS also filed a lien against the couple for nearly $19,000 in taxes they owe for 2006.
State corporation records show Scott Fawcett has operated 15 companies, mostly involving construction, including Fawcett Homes, Fawcett Construction and Fawcett Development, all on Domestic Avenue. However, it appears only Fawcett and Associates Inc., at 2630 70th St. S.W., is active. Most were dissolved last year and he most recently worked for his family landscaping firm.
Steele imposed his sentence after Fawcett’s parents, Christine and William Fawcett, and Scott and Heather Fawcett pleaded for leniency, probation without any incarceration.
Heather Fawcett cried, asking the judge not to send her husband to prison because he’d be away from her and their child. “We need him right how,” Fawcett said, sobbing. “I need him and Wesley needs him.”
Scott Fawcett, who stood before the judge in a gray pin-striped suit, said he was “humiliated, embarrassed, and ashamed.”
“I was not thinking of the consequences of my actions,” Fawcett said, adding that he knew it was wrong and accepted responsibility. “I lost my business. I almost lost my family. I lost my credibility in my community and my good name.”
He promised never to do it again and said he’d perform community service. “Your honor, I beg for your mercy,” he added.
Defense attorney Michael McDonnell of Naples told the judge there were two doors Fawcett could walk through today.
“If he opens one, it would be very dark,” McDonnell said. “There would be a child without a father, a family without a husband.”
But if the judge chose the second door, there would be light, “a second chance for Scott to create jobs and be a responsible member of the community.”
Assistant State Attorney Nicole Waid agreed Fawcett should get a term at the low end of sentencing guidelines. But she emphasized that more than $3.349 million in loans were involved and nearly $1.5 million was lost.
“The government views this not as just one mistake, but a series of mistakes Mr. Fawcett participated in in order to defraud the banks,” Waid said. “The government has to look out for society and acts like this. It’s the community as a whole that suffers. The banks and community have suffered and people can’t get mortgages now.”
And for that, she blamed people like Fawcett.
The judge accepted the lenient term after noting Fawcett had one prior felony conviction, a battery from his college days.
McDonnell declined comment afterward and would not say whether he will appeal the sentence.
The plea deal includes a substantial assistance agreement that allows Fawcett to file a motion to reduce his sentence within a year of his sentence — if the government finds his cooperation and assistance was substantial.
The case began with a complaint by CitiMortgage that was investigated by Collier County Sheriff’s Detective Tom Zanfardino of the Economic Crimes Unit. It was then referred to federal investigators.