The Recession's Most Elaborate Marijuana-Growing/Mortgage-Fraud Scheme is Officially Over
Drug Enforcement Agency
The collapse of the U.S. housing bubble wreaked tremendous amounts of misery on homeowners, who suddenly discovered that they owed more on their mortgages than their houses were worth, or found themselves in overbuilt and mostly vacant subdivisions, or could no longer afford ballooning mortgage payments. But whereas they saw their hopes for future solvency flushed down with the rest of the global economy, Julius and Jarrod Williams, two brothers from McKinney, saw opportunity.
In February 2007 the Williams brothers, along with a 38-year-old Charles Williams (relationship unclear) established Applied Investment Strategies Inc., a legitimate-sounding company that promised to stave off foreclosure for struggling homeowners. And, for a time at least, that's exactly what they did for the 38 people they convinced to sign up.
What the Williams didn't make clear was how AIS planned to save the homes, which, according to federal court documents, was by stealing clients' personal identification information and creating fake military orders, which they then sent to banks and lenders in order to claim a foreclosure exemption under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which was designed to help actual military personnel on active duty. Meanwhile, AIS would lease out the homes on behalf of the owners and pocket the rent, instead of using it to pay the mortgages as promised.
Needless to say, that's hardly a viable long-term strategy. Eventually a bank or the federal government was bound to perform a sufficiently thorough check to figure out the people applying for relief weren't actually soldiers and foreclose on the homes, which is exactly what happened. So, the Williams turned to phase two of their operation: large-scale marijuana farming.
After at least one of the properties was vacated, Charles Williams, along with a 33-year-old Brit named Christopher Carter and Sean Harrell, 37, of Dallas, began cultivating more than 1,000 marijuana plants, which the feds eventually stumbled upon when they were investigating the mortgage fraud scheme.
Federal prosecutors announced today that Jarrod Williams, 34, and Julius Williams, 43, both pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud charges today, for which they face up to five years in federal prison. Their business partners have already been convicted. Charles Williams faces up to life in prison on fraud and drug charges. Harrell also faces a potential life sentence for drugs. Carter, the Brit, got off relatively lightly, having been ordered to serve 41 months in federal prison for conspiring to distribute marijuana.