Sunday, June 14, 2009

Donald Walthall Takes The Stand In Marlon Pratt Mortgage Fraud Trial (Summer Visitation 2009)

Photo By John Hoff

On Friday, I ducked into the Marlon Pratt mortgage fraud trial for about 20 minutes, with my son in tow. I'd heard a rumor that Donald Walthall would be taking the stand, and delivering testimony which would pretty much lock the door of Marlon Pratt's prison cell. At about 4 PM, Donald Walthall was indeed on the stand...

Walthall appeared in an impossibly yellow shirt, singing like a canary about how he'd gone ahead and slapped his signature on loan documents when he had not really been the loan officer on those particular loans. Who was the loan officer? Marlon Pratt. According to the testimony, Pratt had been the LOAN OFFICER on loans where he himself was one of the BORROWERS. Talk about your one-stop banking!

The young female juror I call "Polka Dot Girl" elevated her eyebrows and wrote notes at this revelation. On Friday, she was wearing a gray and black striped outfit and seemed quite focused on the testimony.

Donald Walthall testified looking straight ahead at the prosecutor, in a cooperative tone which was mostly meek, though not servile. Walthall did not look toward Marlon Pratt while I observed. Pratt sat with his hand on his chin, wearing a grim look. He wore a conservative gray suit.

According to my 12-year-old son, Alex, some of Pratt's family appeared "nervous." My son saw "foot tapping" and "thumb twiddling" and one woman appeared to be "reading a Bible."

An individual sitting in the front row with the Pratt family bore an incredible resemblance to State Representative Bobby Joe Champion.

At one point, there was testimony about $23,000 which ended up in the hands of an entity called "Pratt Construction." You really have to wonder if "Pratt Construction" has ever put the business end of a hammer to the head of a nail. At one point, a picture of 4122 Bryant Ave. N. was displayed on the screen. At another point, the prosecutor asked Donald Walthall if he'd ever known Marlon's wife, Donna Pratt, to "live in a house this modest." The utterance was objected to by Larry Reed, and successfully. The judge appears to be very even-handed between defense and prosecution, but there is no doubt the testimony being delivered is damning.

Word around the courthouse is the prosecutor, Tom Fabel, is rather "old school" and doesn't rely much on modern devices to put evidence in front of juries. Indeed, a few days ago I saw Fabel presenting a handwritten diagram which actually had a little doodle of a house, like a stick figure man would live inside. However, it should be noted...the diagram was plenty enough to get the job done and certainly had no distracting flashy elements.

Fabel is ably assisted by Kirstin Kanski, who wore a blue suit jacket. Her hair is brown with blonde highlights, cut in a rather casual way. She is tall, pale, calm, apparently in her late 20s.

At one point during an expert's testimony some days ago, a list was projected of the sub prime lenders who were involved with Walthall's company, Universal Mortgage, and it was actually a roll call of the dead. Not a single one of the lenders was still around, each being out of business or in bankruptcy. Here is that morbid, dreary list:

Accredited Home Lenders, Inc.

BNC Mortgage, Inc.

Entrust Mortgage, Inc.

Decision One Mortgage Co.

1st Choice Mortgage

Argent Mortgage Company, LLC

Testimony a few days ago included a witness, Allison Stoehr of Title Nexus in Minnetonka, described as a "legal assistant." A brunette with nicely-permed hair, she appears to be in her early 30s. Another expert was Curtis D. Loewe, whose professional qualifications were so overwhelmingly impressive you had to wonder why he would be required to testify at all. Really, just have him say Marlon Pratt is guilty and let his resume do the convincing.

Loewe has--among a lot of other things--an extensive past career with the attorney general's office and many years of work in regulation. He eventually went to work for Hometown Mortgage, and has been an expert witness in a handful of other trials. Loewe--who doesn't appear at first glance to be as old as he actually must be--is a short, somewhat rotund man with receding hair and a hearing aid. At one point, he was told DO NOT state the names of the defendants in other trials where he has been a witness but, not understanding the question, Loewe blurted out the name "Walthall."

Notably, Larry Reed allowed this moment to pass without objection. Loewe proceeded to give a "history lesson" on the sub prime mortgage mess. These are the moments when "Polka Dot Girl" runs her pen over her lips and appears to be thinking about something much more interesting.

In response to questioning by Defense Attorney Larry Reed, Loewe answered that he currently works on 2 or 3 mortgages a month.

"Two or three a month?" Larry Reed asked, incredulous.

"Market's not as good this year," Loewe answered, which produced laughter in the spectator section but, notably, no laughter among the jurists.

At another point during a break in the proceedings, Larry Reed began to argue with the prosecutor about the order of witnesses. Fabel said the order of the witnesses would depend on how the witnesses responded to subpoenas, and added "you would know more than I would on that." Reed wanted to know WHY he would know more, and Fabel responded, "Because they're YOUR friends." Reed began to sputter out a response when the judge said, "Come into chambers" and both lawyers made a beeline out of the room.

At another point, Prosecutor Brad Johnson was in the room, sitting in the spectator section, fresh off his crushing defeat of Larry Reed in the Larry "Maximum" Maxwell trial.

Reed turned to Johnson and said, "Don't you have a little baby you could be playing with?" Brad answered he would have a chance to "play with her tonight" and asked, "Don't YOU have a little baby?"

"I have no babies," Reed answered.

"You have a granddaughter," Brad answered.

Reed was willing to concede the existence of a granddaughter.

Returning to Friday's proceedings, my son and I left after 20 minutes of testimony by Donald Walthall and went to Pizza Luce near the end of the light rail line, where he had a hot fudge sundae. My son, who is in advanced math classes, has quite a head for numbers and I know this means that, in his life, he may be presented with temptations involving the juggling of figures. Therefore, I thought it was good for my 12-year-old son to see an accused white collar criminal on trial, the family members virtually in a state of mourning, with one of the co-conspirators dressed in canary yellow, singing his birdie song.


Odds of Marlon Pratt beating the rap: 100 to 1.

Odds of Marlon Pratt's family member finishing reading "Extreme Faith" before this long, tedious trial finishes: much, much better than THAT.


Anonymous said...

I truly thank you for this update. I have a vested interest in this trial and happen to know Marlon is scum and deserves whatever he gets. He takes advantage of the week and ignorant. Does anyone know if there is a second trial? I happen to know that the intial plaintiff is not listed in the indictment and several other plaintiffs are not listed either. A weekly update would be nice.

Anonymous said...

As I read this and other blogs posted on this site, I noticed that they discussed possible girlfriends and his wife attending the trial. I happen to know that he has both. My question is has anyone noted the boyfriend and if he is attending the trial. From reading one of your other blogs, I know there was a male there and I'm sure it was not a brother. Is it possible to get some names of those on his side of the court room? As of now, I know that one of his girlfriends is scheduled to testify but I am not sure if his boyfriend is going to testify. I'm sure that he will when it is discovered that he is also involved in this crime and continues to make these bogus mortgage sales.

Anonymous said...

oh wow - this sure is getting interesting.

His boyfriend isn't Jerry Moore is it???

Johnny Northside said...

OK, I'm going to say this: I have no reason to know whether any of those anonymous comments have any basis in truth. Feel free to share further details if you have them, however, for the record...there is no known basis to any of these comments.

Anonymous said...

I worked for Donald in his telemarketing room.

I know many of the people that were accused in the early newspaper articles.

At one point,he had a select few people calling back a bunch of the older loans the company did.what was odd,was there was a bunch of them that had the same names listed as the applicant for the loan.

When we brought this up to him the next day,he just said "dont worry about it" and took back the files that were like that.

This was probably a year before the story broke in the star trib.

They knew full well what they were doing was illegal.

I used to even see the tramp Irene in Underwoods office all the time.

Donald was well known to photocopy a signature from one loan doc,and tape it over the signature area of another doc to get the job done quicker.among other things.

Jade Holland,his office manager at the time used to gripe about him not getting fha approved,and he would say he(Donald) didnt want the internal audit that was part of the process.

The whole company was crooked.One of the loan officers would try to sell us drugs,and talk about how his family was gang affiliated on the northside

Johnny Northside said...

Thank you for that info! Keep the info coming!

Anonymous said...

I know these all these people this Anonymous person is talk about and that is incorrect. I worked with Donald and Jade. Donald never would tape a signature to and application. Also the company had been audited by several states (VA, NY, NC and MD) and there weren’t any problems. He was in the process of getting his FHA license. That process takes 6 or more months. Actually, he was working with Superior Mortgage who was FHA License. So get your facts right. Also people would refinance year after year that’s why the same name would be on another application. One thing to keep in mind, the company never had a complaint in any state that it was licenses in and they were license in 15 states.

Johnny Northside! said...

Donald went to JAIL and testified against others.

Clearly, Donald did SOMETHING wrong.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

Walthall was the CEO/Branch manager, and both he and Pratt were found guilty of racketeering.

Johnny Northside! said...

I love how the anonymous poster says "the company never had a complaint in any state."

I filed one of those complaints MYSELF. Here's a link to that story.

Hey, anonymous commenter, can you tell me how to get in touch with Irene Thomas? I would like to interview her.


The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

I've been working on a summary post of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman's 50+ mortgage fraud convictions. And this comment has inspired me to finish that up tonight.

Johnny Northside! said...

Party on, Garth.

Party on, Wayne.

Anonymous said...

That still wasn't a complaint. That was Irene Thomas calling the states where they was license in. Everyone has an opinion about these men. Honestly what they did wasn't wrong. No lenders ever file any complaints. This was one person. I never heard or saw another person in the paper who said that they did something wrong. Yes they brought homes and the sellers never complained. The lenders had to approve the loans and check all the paper work. There is no way property values can be inflated. You have to have comp and sales within a time frame for the lender to approve the appraisals. If not they would need more comps. otherwise the loan was declined. I think the state was looking for someone to make fault for the mortgage crisis. They picked the wrong people. These men were stand up people. But what done is done. I heard Pratt and Walthall are doing well and I'm excellent and I'm glad that they are. As they say you can't hol a good man down!!!

Johnny Northside! said...

Oh, so Irene Thomas the stripper who was used as a straw buyer "called the states they was license in" (sic) but Thomas wasn't COMPLAINING? And those weren't COMPLAINTS? Why are you even bothering to make such a weak point?

Maybe you "can't hol a good man down" (sic) but in this case we're not talking about good men. If they were good, they wouldn't be in prison. As for them doing well in prison, yeah, I hear there's a really structured routine, a lot of exercise, and plenty of time for reading. Hopefully they reform themselves and lead better lives when they get out.

Anonymous said...

12:33 pm anon:

All I can say is lol!

Sounds like you are trying to say mortgage fraud can't happen.

May I suggest that in this general scheme that many of the lenders were at least as crooked as the low level flunkies that actually went to jail.

Whether these clueless (look at who they were doing business with) lenders filed complaints or has nothing to do with whether or not these convictions were just.

Anonymous said...

I was just reading your post. You don't have a clue at all about anything. No lenders filed a complaint or testified against Donald or Marlon. If you worked in the industry the programs that was available where you stated all information and full doc. When you have someone self-employed you do a stated program!! That were the State thinks that fraud. That's wrong... That's why not lenders would testify against them. For the straw buyer that's a flat out lie. In the paper Cleveland Fields said it just went bad. I know them and they even told me that Irene in her letter said that her and Field went in to get these house together, that's not a straw buyer. The state just made that up to make it look good. People want to be real estate investor.

Donald didn’t testify against others. He only had to take the stand when Marlon had his trial. Donald only could say what his involvement was in his company. Nothing pertaining to Marlon's situation.

By the way it wasn't Irene who called the state. It was some other Males who did and the papers because they couldn't get money from these guy's. Everyone knows that, but you. You’re on the outside looking in I understand.
Donald is out and has been for 3 year now!!! Marlon is out also!!
I'm sure you know how someone can run with a story (State MN) and not have all the facts. You’re a write!! LOL