Monday, August 31, 2009

JNS BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Larry Maxwell Gets "Max of the Max" Sentence For Mortgage Fraud, Part 4 of 4

Contributed Photo

It has taken me a while to finish this four part story about the sentencing of Larry Maxwell on August 13, 2009. Since Maxwell spoke last at the hearing, his words have been at the end of the line, buried in my handwritten notes instead of written all over the blogosphere.

But that's fitting somehow. The victims of Maxwell's fraud were able to have their say, without Maxwell's rebuttal right on the heels. But now I'm back from my long road trip and finished eating bugs at CC's birthday party, so it's time for Part Four: Larry Maxwell blaming everybody but HIMSELF for his spectacular "max of the max" downfall for mortgage fraud involving, among other things, wholesale theft of the identity of John Foster.

During the sentencing, Larry Maxwell first spoke to the judge about the position of the podium. The way the podium was facing put Maxwell's back to the spectators, including his victims. Maxwell wanted to be able to address the judge as well as the gallery.

As usual, Maxwell was speaking in a soft, incredibly deferential, even effeminate tone. Later, when he got warmed up, he had a more robust or (one might say) "normal" voice, and at that moment one comes to realize that...

...Maxwell's soft voice is something of an act or affectation.

One couldn't help but think how much Maxwell looked like a pastor warming up for a sermon as he turned the podium toward the spectators in the court. Maxwell first asked not to be interrupted, saying he hadn't been able to say anything during the trial--not entirely a true statement--and, furthermore, he didn't interrupt anybody else. (That part was certainly true)

Maxwell first outlined what he would cover, as though he was giving a PowerPoint presentation. Maxwell planned to speak first to his attorney, Larry Reed, second to his family and friends, third to the prosecuting attorney and then, finally, he would have some words for "the Fosters."

First, addressing his attorney Larry Reed, Maxwell said he appreciated the time and effort. Maxwell believed Reed had represented him with every ounce of energy and determination.

"We have differences," Maxwell said. But those differences had "nothing to do with your energy level and commitment." With Larry Reed cited for contempt of court during the proceeding, one can't help but think some kind of appeal will be made by Maxwell involving inadequate counsel. Of course, any counsel--no matter how adequate--is going to have a tough uphill battle WHEN THE CLIENT IS GUILTY AS SIN AND STACKS UPON STACKS OF EVIDENCE PROVE IT.

I'm just saying.

To his family and friends, Maxwell said "thanks for sticking by me" even when things were tough, "even when things were taken, gone and vandalized." Maxwell appeared to be trying to make the record about the supposed break-in at his home, about things being "gone."

Maxwell saved his most detailed remarks for the prosecutor, Brad Johnson. Liz Johnston assisted Brad Johnson, but was not present at the sentencing hearing and did not appear to be the thrust of Maxwell's remarks. Maxwell spoke of the pre-sentence investigation and how the prosecutor said Maxwell had been "defiant." Maxwell also complained about how Johnson had spoken extensively about the Fosters, even though they were "not involved in all the events."

(Note: John Foster's wife, Melony, uses her own last name of "Micheals.")

In a petulant tone, Maxwell complained about this word "defiant" being applied to him. Where does THAT come from? he asked. How had he been "defiant?" When, precisely? Was it when he said "good morning" to Brad Johnson? Maxwell spoke of the day his father died, and Brad Johnson said "I'm really sorry to hear about the death of your father."

Maxwell thought Johnson seemed sincere in his condolences. But there was another time when Maxwell admitted to becoming angry with Johnson, and saying under his breath "I don't know how you can sleep at night." So was this one utterance evidence of "defiance?"

Fourth on Maxwell's list of minor interactions with Brad Johnson--which Maxwell appeared to be trying, hard, to get into the court record for unknown reasons--was something which supposedly happened "during the fourth week of trial." Larry Maxwell, Brad Johnson, Liz Johnston and Larry Reed were in court. Supposedly, Johnson said, "Mr. Reed, perhaps this is something your client may find funny. I have a joke."

Maxwell said he declined to hear the joke. So were these four interactions, added together, evidence of Maxwell having a spirit of "defiance?"

"You don't know me!" Maxwell proclaimed. "You just DON'T!"

The last time we were here, Maxwell said, the prosecutor had talked about the Fosters. Maxwell said he would "beg to differ" about whether he doesn't feel "extremely bad" about what happened to them. IT IS NOT TRUE, Maxwell declared, that he (and, for that matter, his attorney Larry Reed) do not feel "extremely bad" about what happened to the Fosters.

Despite everything, Maxwell said, he loves his business. He still loves it. He would tell young people to put their best foot forward and encourage them to enter the real estate business. Standing there in a business suit, Maxwell appeared to think himself some kind of role model fit to tell young people, well, something. Anything.

Maxwell did not appear conscious of how completely he had been crushed, how low his status had fallen in society. He was still putting on the personality that goes with the suit. The charade was cringe-inducing. In the spectator stands, teeth were grinding but those gathered sat patiently. Let Maxwell talk, seemed to be their attitude. Let him dig himself an even deeper hole.

Maxwell spoke last to the Fosters. He said the Fosters had been "interested" in the court proceedings and had "been here for hearings." (This is not entirely true, Melony Micheals was excluded for most of the proceedings and, in fact, relied a great deal on this blog for information) Maxwell said he wanted to "reach out, speak, say something" but he couldn't. Maxwell wanted the Fosters to know his silence has "not been because I didn't feel your pain." Maxwell said "I can't say anything better than what the judge said" about what they'd experienced.

Maxwell said he knew everybody was "here to see me sentenced but also to give support to the Fosters." He wished he could do something to fix this situation. One thing Maxwell wanted to say--"and maybe this is defiant," he noted--would be "I have not participated in anything that has injured you or your family."

Now affecting an attitude that he was innocent but forced to take one for the team, Maxwell noted "this is the only system we've got." Over time, Maxwell said, "I will get my justice, too." Maxwell noted that his own relatives had worked in the justice system and he believed in the system despite its finding him guility. Or words to that effect.

Addressing his conviction in 2001 for, oh gee, a similar crime, Maxwell said he "pleaded to a crime because I've been brought up to believe that if you do something you tell the truth." So he pleaded to the other crime because, after all, he did it. But he couldn't plead to THIS. Why? Because he didn't do it!

Maxwell said "Mr. Kingrussell (known as "the imposter Foster") sat in this court and he said I (Larry Maxwell) was not involved!"

(Later, individuals in the court room told me Kingrussell's precise testimony was more complicated than that. Any wavering in Kingrussell's testimony had a lot to do with, well, fear of retaliation.

Maxwell said "the credit reports pulled by Centennial mortgage say on them that this identity was stolen as early as February 2006." Maxwell claimed his own first contact was May 31st of 2006 but somebody had been using the identity of John Foster as early as February of 2006.

Maxwell said he remembered how Detective Cardenas "smiled at me" when Maxwell asked Cardenas if he ever followed up on "the lead" with "the guy in the Magnum Dodge." Like the mysterious one-armed man in "The Fugitive," Larry Maxwell's defense keeps bringing up the man in the "Dodge Magnum." Even the word "magnum" had an odd way of popping up during the hearing, with one witness for Larry Mawell claiming she graduated "magnum (sic) cum laude."

In any case, Larry Maxwell said, Detective Cardenas said "No" when asked if he'd followed up with the oh-so-valuable lead about the mysterious man in the Dodge Magnum. Maxwell claimed Cardenas "heckled me the whole time" and said, "Well, if you don't understand, you're gunna understand."

Maxwell said (the evil) Detective Cardenas had "gained the Fosters' confidence" to sell them his sideline business. Showing an obliviousness to jurisdictional lines, Maxwell said "Cardenas may end up being our next chief of police." (Cardenas works for the BLOOMINGTON police department)

Maxwell then brought up an incident which took place during his incarceration. Maxwell said after being jailed--which happened just moments after he was found guilty--within a week a corrections officer wrote Maxwell up for an infraction which Maxwell had supposedly committed. For this infraction, Maxwell had to be in his cell, shut off from other people. His precious commissary privileges were taken away. His phone cards were taken, so he couldn't talk to his mother.

Maxwell said he filed a grievance and went to a grievance hearing. And, after that hearing, Maxwell claimed he was told the punishment was "without basis." The punishment was "overturned." Maxwell claimed somebody in authority at the jail said "I can't give you back the two weeks you couldn't talk to your parents" but, well, the punishment was overturned.

As Maxwell spoke of this incident--growing quite passionate, his voice not nearly as femmy as usual--it was revealing to see how Maxwell's world had drastically shrunk in size. Once his domain was real estate in the Twin Cities and a luxurious lifestyle. Now Maxwell was yapping on about, good grief, injustice with his little commissary privileges. How the mighty have fallen. To make matters worse, Maxwell then compared his conviction on 18 felonies to what happened with the correction officer, how the jailhouse punishment was overturned, and said, "That's God showing me this conviction will be overturned as well."

Yeah, give me a holler when Baby Jesus opens the door to your prison cell, Larry, because I'll be wanting His Picture for my blog. The fact Larry Maxwell was standing at the podium looking SO VERY MUCH like a minister made the spectacle all the more disturbing and borderline blasphemous. The Gospel according to Larry. The meek shall inherit the earth but that's OK, because their identities can be stolen.

"I AM NOT BEING DEFIANT," Larry Maxwell said. "Just because I want my day in court." He claimed "the ball was dropped but it wasn't dropped because of me." While on trial, he'd lost his father and his grandmother.

Maxwell then addressed a Point Number 5 not mentioned in his 4 point outline: his financial assets.

"When you find one thing," Larry Maxwell said, "let me know because I've still got to pay Mr. Reed." Maxwell said "I understand the fixtures have been removed from my home."

Maxwell said he wouldn't want any of his family "investigated by Cardenas, prosecuted by Johnson, or before Judge Chu" and compared himself to a salesman at Best Buy who doesn't realize a transaction is fraudulent.

Later, outside the court room, Realtor Janet Havlish would take exception to that, saying Realtors know their clients much better than THAT and saying Maxwell was representing the real estate profession very badly.

One of Maxwell's final declarations was "Centennial Mortgage is where all the skeletons are."

Attorney Larry Reed then spoke to "note a couple things." Reed objected to "any ruling on restitution without a hearing." Chu said restitution was an issue that will be "dealt with as part of the sentencing" and said she would "order complete restitution in an amount to be determined."

Now turning to the bloody task of imposing the sentence, Judge Chu said Maxwell had "all the advantages in life but used his talents on crime." She was "disappointed" that Maxwell "continues to blame others" for his wrongdoing. Maxwell "orchestrated criminal activity" and the victims were "not just lenders but innocent people." She said "the inevitable foreclosures had an impact on an already troubled neighborhood."

Chu then said racketeering should be ranked at 10. This produced a sentence range of 141 to 198 months. Judge Chu said she would impose a sentence of 198 months (this is more than 16 years) with credit for 113 days served. At this utterance, Janet Havlish--seated near me--made a triumphant motion with her fist. Melony Micheals appeared to drop her head in an attitude of prayerful thanks.

As Judge Chu began to tackle the issue of restitution, Reed interrupted "You said you won't get into the amount!" Chu said "this is in regard to the Fosters" and "you may note your objection but you'll have to wait until after my sentence."

Chu did say, however, she didn't have the authority to order no professional licenses. The state, she said, could bring a civil action in that regard. She said "civil remedies are also available to keep him from contacting the Foster family." Prosecutor Brad Johnson had asked for both these things: no professional licenses after Maxwell served his sentence. No contacting the Foster family. Johnson promised to research this matter further for Judge Chu.

Turning to Maxwell, Chu urged him to "use the time to contemplate your future and move on from past mistakes." There were more fireworks between Chu and Reed, with Reed going on about Maxwell's "right to a hearing to determine restitution." Chu did promise such a hearing for Maxwell, despite the fact she'd already determined part of the restitution as pertained to the Fosters.

The sentencing took so long there was literally a "changing of the guards," though not with all the pomp and circumstance of Buckingham Palace. Larry Maxwell was taken into the "handcuff room" to the right side of the spectators, to the disappointment of some least one of whom said she would have preferred to see Maxwell cuffed.

Melony Micheals--forced to be quite frugal due to all the damage to her family's once sterling credit--celebrated with a soup special at a restaurant located near the Hennepin County Government Building, just through the skyway. She treated the guests with her, including this blogger. Micheals made no secret of planning a big civil suit in the wake of Maxwell's conviction while everybody sat and had soup.

But before everybody left the courtroom, Judge Chu came back to tell Melony Micheals "Your comments really did influence my sentence."

Later, there was a party which featured cake. The photo above shows the cake.

Thus did the reign of Larry Maxwell--mortgage fraudster extraordinaire--come to an inglorious end, thanks to an identity theft victim who refused to be a victim, and turned the tables.

This may be Part Four of Four but take my word for it...this story isn't over.


Anonymous said...

Excellent four part series and no doubt more to come on this story as additional information surfaces. Great job documenting it all John!!

The Mortgage Geek said...

John (and JNS readers),

I also attended the sentencing and took 9 pages of notes. Once the four-part series was concluded here, I decided to go back and see if there was anything I could add. Not surprisingly, what's here is quite exhaustive and there isn't much for me to fill in.

Here are the relatively few things I want to add:

1. When Maxwell began speaking, and thanking his attorney, family, and others, it seemed to almost resemble an acceptance speech at the Oscars ("I'd like to thank the academy..."). That was appropriate, since he had to lie convincingly when he tried to maintain both his innocence and lack of money to pay restitution.

2. Maxwell also stuttered when he was attempting to express sympathy for John Foster while maintaining his stance that he's not guilty. He said, "What I cannot say is that I have not participated in any of these things." A little subconscious double-negative there? I think so.

3. If Maxwell spoke any truth whatsoever at the trial, it was that there are skeletons at Centennial Mortgage and Funding, Inc. For better or worse, these really ARE skeletons, since CMF was shut down by the state of Minnesota and appears to no longer be in business. But Maxwell's colleague at Centennial was Trent Bowman and they closed scores of loans together. Trent Bowman is still out there doing mortgage loans, and his Linkedin profile states that he works for American Choice Lending. While Maxwell was the mastermind of this scheme, I don't see how it was carried out with Trent Bowman as an innocent and unknowing participant. Let's hope the wheels of justice turn on Bowman soon.

4. At the time that the Hillside Ave mortgage was originated, the estimated market value was $99,000 and the taxable market value was $64,400. But the mortgage was in the amount of $190,000. Since that fraud, the property has been a blight in the neighborhood, and lost to tax forfeiture. Since the county owns it, nobody will collect on any assessments and the taxable market value is $0. Yet another way that we all pay for this kind of crime.

Anonymous said...

The Star Trib wrote an article on August 14th, 2009, the day after the sentencing. In this article there were many inaccuracies, and even a statement that referred to John Fosters impact statement before the court as 45 minutes speaking of how this crime left him broke and depressed. Anyone who was there knows that John Foster spoke very articulately about who he was, how he was raised, and how he'd worked hard for years planning his life and retirement and how this crime had impacted every facet of his life, his family, the community, and that he felt it important to make it known that these are not victimless crimes. He did not ever once say he was depressed, nor was any part of his statement heard by anyone in the courtroom in the light this inaccurate article portrayed.

When I called this writer, to ask if she was in the courtroom for this hearing, she indicated she was. I was surprised because of the many inaccuracies, and when I began explaining this is one reasons I would not subscribe to the paper, she abruptly ended the conversation by hanging up on me.

I called my friend, explaining that I had called to try to give accurate information but Rochelle Olson had refused to engage in a conversation and had hung up on me. I suggested she call, which she did and left two messages but Rochelle never returned any calls.

Since it's been more than two weeks, it's apparent she does not plan to converse about this subject.

John Foster, who rarely speaks publicly, did an excellent job in telling the court, his story of how this crime affected him, what it stole from him, his family, the neighborhood, and the city and the Real Estate industry as a whole. He did a public service by relating and simplifying the affects that this crime creates. He was dismayed when he read the article written by Rochelle Olson, and this bothered me. This is why I called, and shame on the Star Tribune for hiring someone so unprofessional that she does not care if the facts are true and accurate, she will not have a conversation about the article and will not return phone calls.

My opinion of this was, that after everything the Foster's have been through that the very least they could expect was support and professional reporting handled in a much kinder way. It made it sound like he was whining. It bothered him, and it devastated me to see something so far away from what he actually said was being reported in the Star and Tribune and would be read by people and interpreted in this way. I commend John Foster for doing something so outside his comfort zone and doing it so meticulously, so eloquently and hope many readers find this blog for accurate information.

Thank you Johnny Northside for all you do to report the facts!!

Please feel free to send emails or voicemails with any opinions of coverage provided by:
Rochelle Olson, 612-673-1747 (office) writer for Star Trib.

Janet Havlish

JNS Reader said...

Nice work, Johnny. You should have the entire account bound in graphic novel format. Something noir...