TAMPA â A Tampa paralegal will spend 15 months in federal prison for conspiring to commit bankruptcy fraud while trying to deceive mortgage companies and homeowners with properties in foreclosure.
Eric Liebman, 34, will serve three years of probation upon his release and will have to repay $167,478.96 in addition to his prison sentence, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He was sentenced on January 27 by U.S. District Judge James Moody.
Liebman, who pleaded guilty on September 24, 2019, had faced five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His sentence was reduced after he “cooperated with the government in a lengthy bankruptcy fraud investigation” and provided information about his co-conspirator, attorney James Lee Clark, according to federal prosecutors in court documents.
“In particular, the cooperation of the accused has significantly strengthened the government’s case against the co-conspirator Clarkâ who pleaded guilty in November one count of conspiracy to commit fraudulent bankruptcy and one count of wire fraud.
In addition to mortgage fraud, Liebman admits to embezzling client funds for his personal use.
Clark will be sentenced on March 17. He faces 25 years in prison on both counts and a $500,000 fine.
According to court documents, Liebman was working for Clark’s firm, Clark Law Group, when the scheme began.
Liebman and Clark would approach homeowners facing foreclosure, some of his own clients, saying they would negotiate with creditors on their behalf in exchange for transferring the homes via a waiver or warranty to Florida Recovery Property Solutions. Florida Recovery was a company controlled by Liebman. (A waiver is a formal waiver of legal action against another person.)
After having the houses transferred, the men convinced these owners to sign leases or put the house up for sale.
As part of their presentation, the men were telling the owners that they would negotiate with mortgagees to save the house or renegotiate the terms of the mortgage, depending on Clark’s plea agreement.
“Contrary to these representations and promises, Clark generally made no effort to negotiate…In fact, he often abandoned his representation of distressed owners,” prosecutors said.
Instead, to make sure rent keeps coming or to take advantage of a sale, men file fraudulent bankruptcy petitions on behalf of landlords to stop mortgage holders from pursuing foreclosure and sale. possible property.
The idea was that upon filing for bankruptcy, the automatic stay provision of bankruptcy law would prevent banks from foreclosing on properties, at least for a short time.
The men never intended to pursue the bankruptcies, which were ultimately dismissed.
This, according to Clark’s plea, gave the men time “to collect ill-gotten rental income and/or legal fees associated with preparing and filing petitions”.
The program ran from January 2010 to February 2017.
According to the Florida Bar, Clark’s license was permanently revoked on February 16, 2017.