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Loan officer forfeiting money “brick” to feds

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Sep. 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm with No Comments »
September 24, 2012 2:39 pm

For most of us, our folding money fortunes consist of a few greenbacks stashed in our wallet or purse.

But for convicted Puyallup mortgage banker Shawn Portmann, his cash reserves consisted of thousands of dollars in neatly packaged bundles of $100 bills stored in a home safe.

Portmann, one of the nation’s highest flying home loan originators during the middle of the last decade, Tuesday pleaded guilty to two federal fraud charges. Portmann admitted to falsifying loan documents regarding borrowers employment, income and debts in order to generate loans for Pierce Commercial Bank.

The borrowers’ default on dozens of those loans led to the bank’s demise.

Part of his plea bargain was that Portmann forfeit his ill-gotten gains from his criminal activities.

Most notable of those was literally a shrink-wrapped “brick” of $100 bills that Portmann gave to a friend for safe-keeping when he suspected that federal agents might arrest him.

That cash reserve consisted of individual stacks of a hundred $100-dollar bills. Ten of those bundles — $100,000 in all — were wrapped in plastic just as they had been delivered to Portmann’s bank by the Federal Reserve Bank of Seattle.

Portmann also gave the friend another $9,500 or so in loose bills, federal prosecutors said.
That friend, with Portmann’s permission, used about $7,500 to pay personal bills, leaving $2,000 in loose bills remaining.

The friend, not wanting to be involved in Portmann’s schemes, turned over the $100,000 brick of cash plus the $2,000, all carried in a plastic trash bag, to the IRS.

According to a forfeiture case, entitled “United States of America versus $102,000 in United States currency more or less”, large sums of cash were routinely part of Portmann’s schemes.

A Portmann assistant, identified simply as “AB” in federal court documents, said she regularly withdrew cash from Portmann’s bank accounts at his direction and placed them in a safe in his home.

She logged the cash withdrawals on a yellow legal pad. Over the years, she said, those cash withdrawals amounted to about $500,000.

The mortgage banker alleged used some of the cash to buy cashiers’ checks made out to creditors of home buyers. He would send copies of those checks to banks that bought the loans to document that the borrowers had paid off their debts. The checks, however, were never sent to the creditors, but were redeposited into Portmann’s accounts.

Between 2006 and 2009, Portmann or his associates purchased some $899,000 in cashiers checks from his Bank of America accounts and later redeposited them, prosecutors said.

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Emily Langlie said the forfeited cash will either be used to help reimburse victims of Portmann’s fraud or will be deposited in the federal government’s general fund.

In addition to agreeing to a prison term recommendation of 10 to 14 years, Portmann also agreed to pay back those he defrauded. The full amount of that restitution is still to be determined.

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