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By Californian file photo
BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer email@example.com
David Marshall Crisp, the alleged kingpin behind Bakersfield’s massive Crisp & Cole mortgage fraud case, has agreed to admit to one felony count of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud.
Crisp, the 34-year-old former chief executive of Crisp, Cole & Associates, faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. He is scheduled to enter his plea to U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O’Neill at 1:30 p.m. Monday in Fresno.
Crisp’s plea agreement, signed Thursday, comes a little more than a month after his former business partner, Carl Cole, 66, pleaded guilty to one count of the same crime.
Crisp’s agreement is conditioned upon a guilty plea by his wife, Jennifer Anne Crisp, to one count each of mail fraud and wire fraud. She, too, is scheduled to enter her plea Monday in Fresno.
With Crisp’s agreement, all but one of 15 defendants in the case have pleaded or agreed to plead guilty in a scheme prosecutors say cost banks more than $20 million. Crisp and his attorney could not immediately be reached for comment. Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorneys’ Office declined to comment Friday.
Crisp and Cole had each faced 56 felony counts, including 33 counts of mail fraud, 10 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of bank fraud and one count to launder money.
The remaining defendant is Julie Dianne Farmer, the firm’s former operations manager. She is charged with eight counts of mail fraud; four counts of wire fraud; one count of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud; one count of conspiracy to launder money; and one count of bank fraud.
Her trial is scheduled to start Feb. 4.
Cole said by phone Friday that he is anxious for the whole case to become “a thing of the past.”
“I’m just glad to see all this coming to an end, and looking forward to get through it,” he said.
The case has been felt profoundly in Bakersfield real estate circles, partly because of the extravagant lifestyle Crisp displayed with his ambition, expensive cars, suits and bodyguards. But it also amounted to a kind of cautionary tale.
“It’s obviously sending a very obvious and chilling message to real estate and mortgage practitioners that, you do things that you’re not supposed to, that you can be caught and the penalties can be very severe,” Bakersfield real estate broker Robin Ablin said.
“It’s very sad. (Crisp) and all the people involved, they made poor decisions, and then they're being justifiably punished for what they did.”
Prosecutors have accused Crisp, Cole and their business associates and family members of using straw buyers and others to buy and sell various properties multiple times. Each time they skimmed equity that had been built up using artificially inflated home valuations.
The defendants are accused of providing bogus information to mortgage lenders and using 100 percent financing to buy homes. Many of the properties later entered foreclosure, causing large losses to lenders.
Attorneys for Farmer filed a motion Friday asking the court to reconsider its denial of her request that the trial be postponed. She's asking that the trial be continued until the remaining defendants not called to testify by the government are sentenced.
The court denied her original motion Dec. 5.
The motion says Farmer intends to a call a number of defendants who have pleaded guilty in the case. Her attorneys argue that none of those defendants can be called to testify because they haven't been sentenced yet and would exercise their Fifth Amendment rights.
Prosecutors are opposing Farmer's motion for reconsideration, arguing she has failed to present the court with information that any co-defendant's testimony would be favorable to her, or that any of them would in fact agree to testify on her behalf.
Prosecutors also point out in their opposition filing that the possibility of criminal liability “would allow even an already-sentenced co-defendant to invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination at defendant Farmer's trial.”
Farmer's motion and the government opposition are scheduled to be heard at 1:30 p.m. Monday.