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Nov. 23, 2009

HOUSTON LAWYER SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR CONSPIRING TO COMMIT MAIL FRAUD AND SECURITIES FRAUD

(HOUSTON) – Ted Russell Schwartz Murray, a Houston lawyer, has been sentenced to prison for conspiring to commit mail fraud and securities fraud arising from the promotion and marketing of the Premiere 72 or “P72" mortgage investment program, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.    

Murray, 58, a lawyer licensed in Texas and Florida and a licensed mortgage broker, was sentenced by United States District Judge Vanessa Gilmore.  He received 240 months in federal prison without parole for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and securities fraud in connection with the operation of Money Mortgage Corporation of America, a subsidiary of Premiere Holdings LP, a real estate investment program as well as making a false statement on tax returns for the years 1999 and 2000. Murray was charged in an indictment handed up by a grand jury in August 2006 along with David Isaac Lapin and Jeffrey Carl Wigginton Sr. Murray was convicted by a jury’s verdict following a seven-week trial which concluded in October 2008.
 
During trial, Murray denied he made false representations to investors when the program was promoted with promises for: (1) 12% interest; (2) 1st liens on real estate; (3) 72-hour liquidity; and (4) 70% loan to value ratio. The government’s evidence proved the so-called interest payments were actually made from a portion of an investor’s initial principle investment set aside at the time of the investment and returned to the investor as interest; many loans were not secured by 1st liens on real estate; and many loans were not based on a 70% loan to value ratio. Blaming his partners, Murray denied any responsibility for failing to disclose material facts to investors. Lapin, who pleaded guilty prior to trial, testified at Murray’s trial that he and his co-defendants failed to disclose to investors that loans on certain projects were actually in default at the time the funds of new investors were placed in these loans. An expert witness qualified in forensic accounting testified that the P72 program was conducted like a Ponzi scheme, in that the money from new investors is used to pay earlier investors.  

Additionally, the government’s evidence provided that Murray disguised personal expenses as business expenses and deducted a portion of those expenses on his tax returns, including a $29,000 Rolex watch, payments to casinos, payments for a $1 million ownership interest in the building where Premiere held its offices at 11451 Katy Freeway and gifts to family members.
 
Judge Gilmore has ordered that Murray serve a three-year-term of supervised release upon completion of his 20-year prison term. Murray was ordered to surrender and did surrender himself to federal authorities as ordered by the court on Dec. 1, 2008. 

Lapin and Wigginton have both been previously convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and securities fraud after entering pleas of guilty in August 2008 and are pending sentencing in December 2009. Each faces a maximum of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine at sentencing.

The investigation leading to the charges against Murray was conducted by the Unites States Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division and the United States Department of Labor. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Cedric L. Joubert, Stephen L. Corso and Quincy L. Ollison.

 

 

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