Posted: 12:30 pm Monday, December 1st, 2008

Mortgage scammer sentenced to 30 months 

By Jeff Ostrowski

Convicted mortgage scammer Ralph Michel was sentenced this morning to 30 months in federal prison for his role in using dozens of properties to rip off lenders for millions.

Michel’s attorney described him as illiterate and said he was far from the mastermind in the case.

“Based on his lack of education and lack of sophistication, he was not the one in control,” Michel’s lawyer, Glenn Mitchell, told U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks in federal court in West Palm Beach.

A tearful Michel, meanwhile, asked Middlebrooks for mercy in exchange for giving the feds information that forced guilty pleas from mortgage broker Lauren Jasky and Berry Louidort.

Middlebrooks last month sentenced Louidort to 37 months. For Michel, sentencing guidelines called for a 41-month sentence, and federal prosecutors suggested a 33-month sentence. Michel argued that he was Louidort’s dupe and deserved a lighter sentence.

“I put my life on the line. I put my family’s life on the line,” Michel said. “Why am I sitting there helping them if they’re not helping me?”

After Middlebrooks heard Michel’s plea for lenience, he sentenced Michel to 30 months.

When he pleaded guilty, Michel agreed to pay restitution of $11.6 million, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Lothrop Morris said the true figure will be more like $9.5 million. Mitchell said Michel’s actual profit from the scam was only $400,000 to $500,000.

In two of their many transactions, Louidort, Michel and Jasky convinced lenders that side-by-side McMansions in the Versailles development in Wellington were worth nearly $2 million each. Michel got kickbacks of $650,000 and $600,000 when those homes sold in 2007, prosecutors say.

Jasky is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday.