Mortgage fraud scheme brings woman 10-month sentence
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org May 30, 2014 11:00PM
Updated: July 1, 2014 6:54AM
A Gary real estate agent will avoid prison time for her part in a local mortgage fraud scam that took in more than $600,000 after a federal judge agreed he did not want to hurt the efforts she has taken since admitting her guilt.
U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano instead sentenced Elois Blackmon to 10 months in a federal halfway house, where she will be allowed to continue to work at her job at a local steel mill.
“The bottom line is I don’t want to cut your legs out from under you,” Lozano said during Blackmon’s sentencing Friday morning at U.S. District Court in Hammond. “I’m proud of you.”
Because federal halfway houses have the right to discharge inmates whenever they want, Lozano also ordered Blackmon to serve 10 hours of community service a week if she is released early until the end of the 10 months.
Although federal sentencing guidelines had called for a sentence of a year and half to two years in prison, Blackmon’s attorney, Scott King, instead urged Lozano to hand down a sentence that allowed her to keep her job.
Blackmon’s role in the fraud ring, King said, was one error in an otherwise law-abiding life. She has already suffered because she lost her real estate license, he said. After losing her job and pleading guilty in this case, she went back to school for an associate degree and is seeking her bachelor’s degree. She was also recently promoted at her job, which King called “remarkable.”
“Justice in this case is not destroying what she has rebuilt,” King said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster had asked for a sentence below the sentencing guideline recommendation but said she could not support the request for no prison time as it would not be fair to other defendants in the case.
She noted that Blackmon had not only cooperated in the case but was the first of six defendants to plead guilty.
Blackmon apologized for her actions, which she said actually landed her in debt.
“I realized I made the decision to do it, and it was a bad decision,” she said.
Blackmon and the other defendants were accused in 2010 with running a scam to sell 25 houses in Gary for far more than they were worth and pocket the difference by filing fake liens on the homes. The defendants recruited buyers by telling most of them that the houses would be renovated and then rented out to others, with the defendants doing all the work and the buyers just collecting money.
Blackmon was the only buyer who was charged, and Koster said that was because she had knowledge of the real estate world and that what they were doing was illegal.
She also helped sell some of the homes and made about $95,000 from the scheme.