A unique mortgage fraud case that was tried in federal court has come to an end with the only defendant of 24 to be acquitted.
Escrow officer Billie Bishop, 52, of La Mesa, unlike most of the other defendants, did not plead guilty and instead elected to go to trial. Bishop had been charged with wire fraud and making a false statement to a bank; her case was the first time the racketeering law was used in a mortgage fraud case.
Prosecutors had accused her of processing 77 transactions in a scheme where the other defendants received more than the listed price for homes, with the remainder going to an account earmarked for construction upgrades. This special account was managed by Darnell Bell, a Lincoln Park gang member. The homes were purchased in the days of Ninja loans (No Income No Job or Assets) and most were foreclosed after the straw buyers walked away, with Bell and his co-defendants pocketing the loan money (loan fraud, mortgage fraud).
Billie Bishop was tried before U.S. District Court Judge Larry A. Burns. The attorneys who represented her were Gastone Bebi and Jonathan Jordan.
After the trial, Bebi stated that prosecutors had been unable to prove that Bishop had any awareness that the construction work was being performed or that the sales were fraudulent (real estate fraud, escrow fraud).