CLEARWATER — Two former mortgage brokers convicted of racketeering and grand theft have to wait until Monday to find out how long they’ll be stuck in prison, while one of their wives was sentenced to probation Monday for a lesser role in the scheme.
Pinellas County Circuit Judge Keith Meyer sent all three defendants home Monday after a 2½ -hour sentencing hearing. Each was arrested in 2011 in a case that was emblematic of the mortgage crisis that led to the 2008 crash, a case that defrauded lenders out of about $8.8 million.
Stephanie Bolton, a lawyer who was implicated alongside her husband, was sentenced to two years of probation after pleading no contest to a grand theft charge and will be forced to pay more than $4,000 in fines and court costs. She’ll also have to disclose her conviction if she chooses to seek any type of leadership position.
“This court does not take these things lightly,” Meyer said. “You’re probably going to have a mark on you for the rest of your days.”
Her husband, William Bolton, and his former colleague, Craig Hudson, who both faced more extensive charges, didn’t get off so easily.
William Bolton had pleaded guilty to two charges of grand theft, one charge of conspiracy to commit racketeering and one charge of racketeering. He faces as much as five years in prison.
Hudson, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering, racketeering and grand theft. Because he was involved in deals involving greater sums of money, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. The two will be sentenced Monday.
“I’m going to digest all of this ... and fashion an appropriate sentence at that time,” Meyer said.
Four other defendants, including Craig Hudson’s wife, Lynne Hudson; David Barile; his wife, Melissa Holsopple Barile, and Eric Rivero will be sentenced in November.
All seven defendants are from Tampa, but they were sentenced in Pinellas because that was where the investigation into the case was opened, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman said.
First Mutual Mortgage, the brokerage firm where most of them worked and Craig Hudson had run since 2004, brokered loans in Pinellas, Hillsborough and other counties at the height of the mortgage crisis.
The state’s charges focused largely on artificial inflation of homebuyers’ incomes on application forms for 50 mortgages for 33 separate properties. Of those properties, 22 went into foreclosure and resulted in $4.2 million in final judgements, investigators said. One home for which the firm landed an original loan of $226,000 eventually sold for just $41,000 as a short sale, investigators said.
While such acts have no direct victims, their cumulative impact on the economy proved detrimental, prosecutors said.
“It was a perfect storm at that time,” Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Mike Williams said. “Mortgage companies made it easy (to get a loan), and these guys took advantage of it, and basically the American people were left on the hook.”
Both of the men headed for prison expressed regret over what they had done.
“I realized that I have caused damage ... and I’m ashamed and embarrassed at some of the things I did,” Hudson said. “It was out of character for me. I got caught up in the times.”
The judge told Hudson to spend the week with his family and to make sure his three children understand why he will be going away.
“Say your goodbye, do what you need to do,” Meyer said. “Talk to your kids. Talk to your wife.”