Lohmeier, a formidable, respectably aged bleach blonde with blood red lipstick, a suit the exact color of a Sherman tank, and the kind of dominating personality one expects in an office manager took the stand after intense behind-the-scenes argument between prosecution and defense about whether trial proceedings should even go forward today because...
...defense counsel Larry Reed protested, at great length, about not having time to read a number of defense documents. Reed had reviewed documents until 7:30 PM and then, according to prosecutor Liz Johnston, Reed left because he said if he didn't, somebody would "kill him." Reed protested at length about not having sufficient time with the documents, while prosecutor Brad Johnson spoke of the "extraordinary lengths" his office went to get the documents from Bloomington.
The capstone on the argument appeared to come from Liz Johnston, when Judge Chu asked Johnston if she would have been able to stay beyond 7:30 if Reed had been willing to remain and look at documents later. Like a good soldier in the war against mortgage fraud evil, Liz answered she would have been willing to stay "for the duration."
Due to the extraordinarily voluminous nature of the evidence, many documents not in immediate play are stored with the authorities in Bloomington and have to be shuttled back and forth.
In the end, Reed didn't get his much-sought-after delay, nor was he able to keep Lohmeier from taking the stand. Reed made an intense, last-ditch battle to keep Lohmeier from testifying as to her relationship with Terrance Large, but was unsuccessful in that regard, also.
However, Judge Regina Chu said she wouldn't allow any testimony in regard to whether Larry Maxwell and Ricky Frey had a partnership arrangement. Frey had testified earlier in the trial as a defense witness, and seemed rather hard pressed to explain the sizable checks he received from Larry Maxwell.
Waiting for Lomeier to take the stand, Larry Reed asked Regina Chu about her foot. Chu said it only seems to hurt at 3 in the morning. So apparently the surgery which Chu had to undergo concerned her foot but, more importantly, this kind of small talk seemed to reveal Reed and Chu are rebuilding their relationship after the contempt of court incident several days ago. Indeed, later in the morning, Reed and Chu chatted during a lull in proceedings about their mutual dissatisfaction with Comcast cable.
There's something about Lomeier's personality that fills the room. DOMINATING is the word which comes to mind. She looks like a once-upon-a-time sorority sister who has lived through some hard times of late, but somehow always pulled herself through and, in the process, absolutely REFUSED to take any crap off anybody. Taking the stand, however, she wore a false, toothy smile, rather like somebody who has been talked into taking a seat on a roller coaster, much against their better judgment. During the swearing in, I saw the phrase "penalty of perjury" literally knock the smile off her face.
Lomeier isn't the kind to be less in charge than other people in the room. She had to keep saying, "OK...OK..." to everything the judge said in instructions. Sitting and being silent and passively receiving direction is NOT the role Cynthia Lomeier customarily fills. This is a woman who started out as a loan processor, but in no time at all was the office manager at Worldlink, plus a few other hats and--at least once, it appears--signed her name as the secretary of the corporation. Time and time again, she signed other people's names on documents, adding her initials beside the names, believing it was perfectly OK to do that if authorized by the signer. Indeed, she sometimes signed things not second hand, but THIRD hand: putting the name of a borrower on a document because LARRY MAXWELL (not the borrower) said it was OK.
Sometimes she was a loan officer. Sometimes she was a processor. Sometimes she was the office manager. Sometimes, to save paper, she used a form that had one title when she was acting in the role of another, but what did it MATTER? Larry's assistant, Glenda, KNEW what was happening--
OBJECTION!!!! from the defense. Sustained. The last part of the answer will be stricken from the record. The jury should disregard that.
Despite the effort to be frugal and save paper--wouldn't you expect that kind of thing from a good office manager?--those were heady days, back in around 2006. The real estate market was ascending ever upward. Who knew all the shortcuts would one day be scrutinized before a jury, the signature blown up large on a screen, the documents admitted into evidence--objection--overruled--may we approach, your honor?
Lomeier doesn't drop her eyes. She stares you down, arm thrown back, head raised. Sometimes she shrugs and drinks coffee while answering a question, as though to say, "Yeah, I signed that with Larry's signature. So what?" She doesn't seem to be holding a lot back.
Her employment agreement was ORAL. Incredible. Millions of dollars were at stake, and this woman was getting paid like you'd pay a babysitter, a teenager who mows your lawn. Only she was getting a lot more. She got different amounts for each of these property transactions. With Larry Maxwell, $500 was sliced off. When Lomeier said Larry Maxwell was a loan officer--when she said it, again and again, over numerous objections--overruled overruled OVERRULED--the information hit a receptive jury. Half of the jury was scribbling notes at that point.
Maxwell. Loan officer. At World Link. Lomeier was saying, again and again, what the defense is trying so hard to deny, because if Maxwell was a loan officer and a real estate agent on the same deal, well...
You just can't do that. This is how mortgage fraud happens. And, allegedly, did happen. Over and over.
Tanya Patterson, Donald Williams, these were Larry Maxwell's clients, said the witness. But she didn't have direct contact with Larry's clients. NEVER. She got EVERYTHING from the assistant to Larry Maxwell. It was just UNDERSTOOD that larry would be the one to make contact with the clients.
Identification such as Social Security cards, drivers licenses...yes, Lomeier saw that kind of stuff. She saw COPIES that came from Larry. She didn't see originals. Verifications of rent, verifications of deposit, she SAW that stuff. It came from Larry Maxwell. One of the deals involved 2806 Oliver Ave. N., which closed in the name of Donald Williams, who was really a scammer named Tyrone T. Williams.
Yes, Cynthia recalled, there was a woman named "Jolanda" who sometimes worked on the files, too. Jolanda would verify deposits, rent, insurance binders. Jolanda would "order title." But Jolanda was not a processor.
Cynthia Lohmeier is the one who knows where the bodies are buried. Whether she KNEW or SUSPECTED figurative bodies were being buried is another issue, but this is the witness who was in the heart of it. Not only did she fill out the forms, she DEVELOPED the forms used at that office.
However, Terrance Large was the boss. So when Cynthia Lohmeier wanted to know why she was paid directly by Maxwell instead of Worldlink on the deals involving Larry Maxwell, Lohmeier said she "never could get a straight answer from anybody."
You'd have thought Lohmeier knew, SUSPECTED something was up. But did she know it was VERY VERY ILLEGAL? Or was it just a matter of cutting corners in a thriving real estate market where so many people wanted to buy houses you could barely keep up, gathering the money?
The "morning break" came, and the jury knew things weren't going to wrap up today. I heard one of them talking in the break room saying there was NO WAY they're getting out of here today, things would certainly go to Monday, and who knew how long beyond THEN? A female juror--possibly the second oldest of the jurors, possibly the oldest--called to cancel a doctor's appointment she had planned for Monday. She was told the appointment couldn't be rescheduled until July.
That was OK, she said. Reschedule it. Like the dutiful prosecutor Liz Johnston, the juror was here for the duration. Outside the courtroom, people live their lives...here, in the Hennepin County Government Building, there is a war on against mortgage fraud, and draftees must fill the front lines in a jury box. Yes, you WERE a housewife. Now you're here until the government tells you that you're done.
Just before the proceedings started again, the juror I call "The Dude Who Loves Sports" laughed about the need to hit the restroom hard, even though he didn't feel the need to relieve himself at precisely that moment. But, he said, he sure didn't want to be telling the judge LATER that he needed to go to the little boy's room.
The juror who sometimes wears a jacket bearing the name "Edina" said, "Yeah, you don't want to have to use the Big Gulp defense."
The jury resumed their place at the front lines. Lohmeier, freshly fortified with a cup of coffee, actually ESCORTED to the snack bar by Liz Johnston, took the stand again and faced defense attorney Larry Reed.
More to follow. I return to my post in the courtroom.