Former Attorney and Others Sent to Prison for Money Laundering and Auto Loan Scheme
HOUSTON – Three people have been ordered to federal prison following their convictions of money laundering for their participation in a Houston-based bank fraud and money laundering scheme, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez.
Houston resident Jason Ryan Hall, 36, pleaded guilty Aug. 15, 2016, while disbarred former attorney Howard Price Johnson, 63, from Salt Lake City, Utah, and Ohio resident Anissa Lavon Burdett, 50, pleaded guilty Sept. 29, and 23, 2016, respectively.
Today, U.S. District Judge Alfred Bennett ordered Hall to serve an 18-month sentence to be immediately followed by two years of supervised release. Johnson was previously sentenced to a term of 12 months and a day, while Burdett was ordered to serve six months in prison. At the hearing today, additional evidence was presented about Hall’s role in orchestrating the scheme. He was further ordered to pay restitution to the victim banks of $484,070.76 and forfeit $21,000 to the United States.
The three individuals participated in an automobile loan fraud scheme centered in Houston spanning 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. These fraudulent documents included fake bills of sale of the cars that were the subject of the loans and fake W-2 forms that purported to show gainful employment by the straw buyers that would qualify them for the loans.
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.
Hall was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
IRS-Criminal Investigation and U.S. Secret Service investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Johnson prosecuted the case.