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“We are tracking down every possible lead we can, and we’re working hard to get to the bottom of this,” said Ramon V. Korionoff, chief of staff to the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney.

Angela Alsobrooks is the new State’s Attorney, or chief prosecutor, in Prince George’s County, Maryland. A spokesperson for her office recently indicated that it was investigating a foreclosure law firm, Shapiro & Burson, after a whistleblower, Jose Portillo, came forward to say that while working at Shapiro & Burson he was told to sign thousands of affidavits without seeing any evidence that the statements in the affidavits were true. Portillo, a paralegal who had been laid off from the law firm, filed a complaint in March alleging that deeds and foreclosure paperwork contained fraudulent signatures.

The spokesperson said the prosecutor’s office is working with state and federal law enforcement officials on the effort.

Why is that, I wonder?

Prosecution of crimes under the Annotated Code of Maryland which are committed in Prince George’s County is the responsibility of the State’s Attorney, Angela Alsobrooks, and no one else. And prosecuting those crimes is just not that hard to do. A talented third-year law student could get convictions on these facts. For an experienced prosecutor, it’s a piece of cake. Here’s how it works.

Submission of false or forged affidavits, if proven to have been knowingly filed in the local courts in foreclosure actions, constitutes fraud and perjury, both of which are misdemeanors. Unless otherwise noted, references are to the Criminal Law Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland.

§ 8-606. Making false entries in public records and related crimes.   
    (b)  Prohibited.- A person may not or may not attempt to:         
            (1) willfully make a false entry in a public record;  
    (c)  Penalty.- A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both.   

§ 9-101. Perjury.
     (a)  Prohibited.- A person may not willfully and falsely make an oath or affirmation as to a material fact:
            (2) in an affidavit required by any state, federal, or local law;
            (3) in an affidavit made to induce a court or officer to pass an account or claim;
            (4) in an affidavit required by any state, federal, or local government or governmental official with legal authority to require the issuance of an affidavit; or
            (5) in an affidavit or affirmation made under the Maryland Rules.
     (b)  Penalty.- A person who violates this section is guilty of the misdemeanor of perjury and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years.

Subornation of perjury, i.e. encouraging others to submit documents which are known to be forged or otherwise fraudulent, is prohibited under § 9-102 and a conviction subjects the violator to the same maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment as under § 9-101. Prosecution for fraud under § 8-606 has a one year statute of limitations. But, pursuant to § 5-106(b) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, the State may institute a prosecution under § 9-101 or § 9-102, for perjury or subornation of perjury, at any time, so those offenses are not subject to a limitations period.

Ms Alsobrooks does not need to empanel a grand jury. She already has a witness in Jose Portillo. He has given her the names of the alleged perpetrators and other witnesses. Her offices in the county courthouse are just upstairs from the clerks office and the land records. All she has to do is send one of her paralegals down to pull all the foreclosure cases filed by Shapiro & Burson during, say, the months of June, July and August of last year, make photocopies of the documents Portillo or other witnesses identify as fraudulent or forged, and have one of the many Assistant State’s Attorneys (ASA) who work for her fill out a simple form called a Statement of Charges. The ASA can then walk back downstairs to the office of the Clerk of the District Court and file the form. She doesn’t even need to attach the photocopies to the Statement of Charges, just list each fraudulent document as a separate criminal count.

That’s pretty much it. Since these are misdemeanor charges the defendant does not have a right to a preliminary hearing. The clerk will set a court date and a summons will be issued and served on the defendant by the sheriff. The ASA then has the court issue subpoenas to Portillo and the other witnesses that have been identified, and also to a few of the people whose houses were foreclosed on using perjured affidavits (not hard to find, a class action suit has been filed against Shapiro & Burson). The defendant hires a lawyer who typically will avail herself of the State’s usual offer of informal discovery, which basically allows her to look at the prosecutor’s file. The defendant’s lawyer then has to decide whether to take her chances in District Court, or, by asking for a jury trial, remove the case to the Circuit Court. It’s a tough call. Juries are not generally sympathetic to lawyer defendants.

Whether the case is to be heard before a judge in District Court, or before a judge or a jury in Circuit Court, all the ASA has to do, really, is show up with her documents and witnesses. Any attempt to defend on the basis the defendant didn’t know of the fraud and perjury is defeated by eyewitness testimony and proof of a pattern and practice in submitting such fraudulent and forged documents. I really see no way out for the defendant. The documents were fraudulent or forged, and as public records are admissible in evidence. The defendant knew the documents were fraudulent or forged. The defendant submitted the fraudulent or forged documents to the court. All of the foregoing can easily be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether the case is heard by a judge or a jury isn’t going to matter. It’s ‘game over’ for the defendant.
So how hard is that?

I have not looked at the Maryland sentencing guidelines, but I assume that on conviction of a sufficient number of counts of perjury the defendant would be eligible for a moderate sentence of imprisonment. If defendant’s lawyer is offered any deal that keeps her client out of the PGC Detention Center, and, worse, the state prison system, she would, in my estimation, be wise to recommend that her client plead guilty. What happens in Maryland’s correctional system to new inmates who can’t fight is not talked about in polite society.

I may have misstated the law or the procedures, or my assumption as to the guideline sentence may be mistaken, and if so I welcome comments from those who are more knowledgeable.

But it looks to me like State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks has no reasonable excuse for not taking immediate action. I look forward to seeing at least one of the foreclosure fraudsters, who allegedly committed hundreds, possibly thousands, of crimes under the criminal laws of Maryland, at least charged with a criminal offense.

Is there, in PG County, Maryland, an honest prosecutor who takes seriously her oath of office?

Ms Alsobrooks, a justice-starved public anxiously awaits your next move.

Originally posted to paulbkk on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 05:58 AM PDT.

Also republished by Maryland Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (10+ / 0-)

    " 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me." Elwood P. Dowd

    by paulbkk on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 05:58:53 AM PDT

  •  State & Federal law enforcement (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe shikspack

    I would hope that it would be because they are looking for a pattern which might enable felony charges of some sort.

    My inner cynic says it's part of the "deal" with the 50 state's AG offices to sweep all their criminal behavior under the rug in the interest of "moving forward" and not harming the fraudsters...um contributors.

    In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves. " - Buddha Shakyamuni

    by Actbriniel on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 06:16:18 AM PDT

  •  The fastest way to higher elected office (5+ / 0-)

    Is to prosecute the banksters.  

    I think that if you're a state AG, going after the big banksters could be parlayed into a presidential bid.  

    The darkness drops again but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? William Butler Yeats

    by deepsouthdoug on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 06:17:36 AM PDT

  •  Well basically it looks like the feds (3+ / 0-)

    are involved here. Freddie Mac has fired them as Maryland listed foreclosure firm and has put a hold on any of its Virginia foreclosure business in Virginia Beach where it has a branch.

    The feds spoke to Jose Portillo for his information in March so the investigation is ongoing. It looks like they are going for a more serious fraud, and interstate criminal activity to me. I'm a Maryland attorney.

    It looks to me like they want more than just misdemeanors here. Check it out: Freddie Mac fires shapiro-burson.

    These things take time.

    In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

    by vcmvo2 on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 08:03:05 AM PDT

    •  perjury is a state crime (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek

      If the feds want to use Portillo to pursue wire-fraud or racketeering charges they are, of course, free to do so, though the record of the DOJ in mounting criminal cases against foreclosure fraudsters and banksters does not inspire optimism. But the point of my diary is that the local State's Attorney has the authority and responsibility to prosecute fraud and perjury. Why should the DOJ's interest in filing a federal case, if there really is any, stop the local prosecutor from doing the job she was elected to do?

      " 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me." Elwood P. Dowd

      by paulbkk on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 08:26:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Because it probably will (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek

        interfere with the larger case. You can't prosecute the same crime twice (double jeopardy applies) in this instance it looks like they want more from these characters than just misdemeanor or even worse plea deals where they get off with a slap on the wrist.

        In this case the local SA's case is not more important than a federal crime involving interstate criminal activity.

        Portillo is still an important witness. Many times fraud and perjury charges are pled out with a fine. It looks to me ( and I was a criminal attorney) like they have more on these guys.

        Evidence takes time to collect and nail down. Taking that time does not mean these sleazeballs get off.

        In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

        by vcmvo2 on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 08:51:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Double jeopardy does not apply (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek

          if you are talking about state perjury and federal wire fraud charges. Each of these offenses requires proof of an element not required to prove the other, thus satisfying the Blockburger test. Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 52 S.Ct. 180, 76 L.Ed. 306 (1932).

          And while the feds are taking time to collect and nail down evidence, the one-year statute of limitations on the state fraud charges is running.

          Does the public care whether it's for a state misdemeanor or a federal felony if they see a fraudster getting to wear an orange jumpsuit for a couple of years? And wouldn't that sight, whether the conviction is in state or federal court, have a salutary effect on the lawyers who file foreclosures?

          " 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me." Elwood P. Dowd

          by paulbkk on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 10:12:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No not wire fraud (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            G2geek

            Are you a lawyer? I know the general cites to cases, this case has more to do with the fraudulent practice of law in various states that the DOJ has joined as a plaintiff from Pa, MD, Miss and Fla. false attorney signatures.

            And while this case is progressing the Md Statute of limitations is tolled (held) until the federal action is finished. If the state then wants to prosecute on the perjury charges it can proceed.

            In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

            by vcmvo2 on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 10:30:41 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You link to a civil case (0+ / 0-)

              which is a class action suit in federal court in Mississippi against a foreclosure contractor, in which the DOJ has joined as a plaintiff, charging unauthorized practice of law. It is not a criminal prosecution and has no bearing on the question of double jeopardy. It certainly doesn't toll the S/L on state perjury charges in Maryland, which continues to run regardless of what happens in the civil case.

              I was a lawyer a long time ago.

              " 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me." Elwood P. Dowd

              by paulbkk on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 10:57:08 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well have it your way (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                G2geek

                Your diary would have been better with more links to what this whole thing has triggered. You don't know what charges may be coming because the case is still being investigated. That's only one aspect. I'm sure there are  criminal charges pending. And yes the sol is tolled when there is an on-going investigation. Misdemeanors are not that important if other criminal charges (possibly conspiracy) might be pending.

                In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

                by vcmvo2 on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 11:27:37 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The funny thing is I agree with you (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  G2geek, vcmvo2

                  that the intervention of the feds probably will stop the local prosecutor from doing the job she was elected to do. I just think justice would be better served if she promptly prosecuted easily proven offenses. I will follow the federal investigation and any resulting prosecutions with interest, and I hope you are right that the failure to prosecute simple cases in state court serves a higher federal purpose somehow.

                  " 'In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me." Elwood P. Dowd

                  by paulbkk on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 11:58:06 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  how'bout this: (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  paulbkk, vcmvo2

                  The local prosecutor goes after the misdemeanors before the SOL runs.

                  The feds go after the "conspiracy to commit" and "interstate" charges which have longer SOLs.

                  No double jeopardy because the offense and the conspiracy are two different crimes.  

                  •  Well alot of the time the feds (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    G2geek

                    (and this is very annoying to the local enforcement) won't allow witnesses and other types of action to go forward until they finish. This was standard while using RICO statutes to pull the Mob down. It worked with the Mob but it is seriously one of the things that local DAs, SAs and the cops try to avoid so that they can continue their work.

                    Unfortunately a lot of attention was focused on this "law firm" because they had done similar things in VA as well.

                    So I'm not sure what is happening. I hope the diarist keeps track of these people. They are the scum of the earth.

                    In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

                    by vcmvo2 on Thu Apr 14, 2011 at 08:20:25 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  oops, yeah you're right. (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      vcmvo2

                      Jurisdictional fights over witnesses and specific pieces of evidence.   Good point.  

                      It makes sense that the feds have first dibs, but it seems to me that on cases like this there is a decent basis for mutuality and cooperation.

            •  whoa there, that's HUGE. (0+ / 0-)

              Understood that clerical staff can rubber-stamp docs reviewed by an attorney.

              But where the attorney has not reviewed the docs, the clerical is effectively engaging in the practice of law without a license.  That's HUGE.  

              That's equivalent to pure quackery, for example if I went advertising on dKos to write peoples' wills, got paid, issued documents, and signed my name with "Attorney at Law" at the end.  

              Any ten-year-old who has watched a little cops-and-robbers TV knows that stuff is right off the charts in terms of illegal.  

              All foreclosures handled by firms that engaged in these practices should be thrown out a-priori and with prejudice, and the perps sentenced to prison.  

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