The St. Petersburg Times has launched yet another rocket at billionaire and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Greene:
At a project called La Mirage, Greene converted 1950s-era military housing from apartments to 300 condos. In the summer of 2006, just as he was starting to make his bets against the sub-prime housing market, records show that Greene’s company unloaded the units, some for as much as $165,000. The buyers turned out to be people who never intended to own the properties or pay back the loans.
Within 18 months, all of the La Mirage buyers defaulted on their loans and every condo was in foreclosure. Low-income tenants, still paying rent and unaware their apartments had been sold, found themselves on the street. Lenders recouped about $25,000 per unit when the properties went up for auction. Banks — and ultimately U.S. taxpayers who bailed out the banks — were left holding the bag on nearly $34 million of worthless paper.
Now James Delbert McConville, Greene’s counterpart in the transaction, is in jail facing criminal charges of conspiracy and money laundering stemming in part from the La Mirage transaction. The assistant U.S. attorney says the FBI is still trying to put a dollar figure on McConville’s alleged fraud, and is ramping up its investigation of the La Mirage deal.
Greene is unlikely to be legally implicated in the criminal charges facing McConville, but the article argues that his actions — signing blank deeds and sending them to his escrow company — helped enable the fraud to take place. In either case, his response to the charges is unlikely to endear him to voters:
“I’m always signing blank deeds. That’s how an escrow company works,” Greene said. “If he (McConville) put the deeds in other people’s names, that’s his business. All I care about is that I get my money.”