Former Attorney and Others Convicted in Money Laundering and Auto Loan Scheme
HOUSTON – Three people have now been convicted of money laundering for their participation in a Houston-based bank fraud and money laundering scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
Howard Price Johnson, 62, is a disbarred former attorney from Salt Lake City, Utah, and pleaded guilty today. Jason Ryan Hall, 34, of Houston, and Anissa Lavon Burdett, 49, a resident of Ohio, previously pleaded guilty on Aug. 15, and September 23, 2016, respectively.
The three individuals participated in an automobile loan fraud scheme centered in Houston spanning from April through November 2011. Hall held himself out as a used car dealer who sold luxury vehicles through his alleged Houston car dealerships “EZ Auto Group” and “1st Choice Motors.” Hall’s alleged dealerships, however, existed only as websites that Hall created. They had no physical existence, owned no cars and made no actual auto sales.
Acting as “straw buyers,” Johnson, Burdett and others applied to lenders for auto loans in order to purchase used Mercedes and Lexis cars from Hall’s supposed dealerships. In reality, no vehicles were purchased and Hall had none to sell. In their auto loan applications, the straw buyers made multiple misrepresentations to prospective lenders and submitted fraudulent documents Hall created and supplied in support of the loan applications.
Once the auto loans funded and the funds had been deposited into the bank accounts of the alleged dealerships, Hall kicked-back a portion of the loan funds to the straw buyers. Hall delivered no vehicles to the straw buyers and delivered no vehicle titles to the lenders. The straw buyers failed to pay off their loans, causing the loans to go into default. During the scheme, straw buyers applied for a total of 16 fraudulent auto loans with a combined value of approximately $695,741.
U.S. District Judge Alfred Bennett accepted the pleas and has set sentencing for Dec. 8, 2016. Burdett and Hall will be sentenced Dec. 2, 2016, and Jan. 12, 2017, respectively. At their sentencing, Johnson, Hall and Burdett face up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.
IRS-Criminal Investigation and U.S. Secret Service investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Johnson is prosecuting the case.