Halid Amer played a small but significant role in the collapse of the housing market late last decade. He had help, to be sure, from slews of unqualified borrowers, overleveraged banks, absurdly loose credit and free-handed monetary policy, but it was the actions of Amer and people like him that made sure the crash came hard and fast.
When the feds started watching him around 2005, Amer was head of a North Texas mortgage firm called, ironically enough, Accurate Investments. The firm may well have done legitimate, run-of-the-mill housing transactions, but what caught the notice of federal law enforcement was a scheme he cooked up with four others to trick banks our of millions by taking out millions in fraudulent home loans.
The scheme was simple. Amer and his accomplices would find people with good credit score and promise them easy money. All they had to do was fill out a mortgage application, and they'd get anywhere from $3,000 to $25,000. Their name would only be on the title for a short time before it was transferred, they were told.
That never happened. Instead, Amer and the rest would pocket the money. They did this again and again, in Duncanville, Desoto, Colleyville, Dallas, at least 23 times in all. Their total take, over the course of a couple of years, was $8.8 million. Their victims, in some cases, were the likes of Washington Mutual and IndyMac, both of which would later collapse under the weight of bad mortgages.
Amer and his co-conspirators were convicted in the scheme last year. He's currently serving a 41-month sentence in a federal lockup in Memphis. It appears that he's ready to get out.
In court documents filed yesterday, the U.S. Attorney's Office describes a scheme Amer allegedly helped cook up just before he was locked up. This one was even simpler than the first, since it had only a single step: bribing U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis.
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The alleged bribery scheme began last February, as Amer was waiting to be sentenced. A friend of his, Shani Shehu, who runs an Arlington pizza joint, Italy Pasta, Pizza & Subs, arranged a meeting between Amer and a friend of a friend, someone he suggested might be able to help.
"At the meeting in Arlington, Texas," the feds wrote in yesterday's court filing, "Amer told the man that he was willing to give money directly to Judge Solis or pay someone to 'get to the judge.'" The man agreed but, instead of scouring the North Texas underworld for a well-connected fixer, he went to the cops and put Amer in contact with a man by the name of Gil, who happened to be an undercover FBI agent.
Needless to say, no money ever made its way into the pocket of Solis. Amer and Shehu spent the next couple of months arranging a payments and debating whether Gil, this stranger who was so willingly volunteering to help bribe a federal judge, might actually be a cop. They had apparently shrugged off their concerns by May 18, 2012, when they met with Gil and laid out the details of the bribe.
And so, Amer faces an additional charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice by attempting to influence a federal judge. So does Shehu, who was indicted yesterday.