After a year of build-up and a string of ancillary indictments, the feds finally arrested alleged loan fraudster Shawn Portmann this morning and slammed him with a 30-count indictment. Three former co-workers of Portmann, all once employed by now-closed Pierce Commercial Bank, are also named in the the 23-page charging document. It's clearly a showpiece of a case, brought not only by the local U.S. Attorney's office but a financial fraud task force convened by President Obama.
Portmann, 39, the subject of a Seattle Weekly cover story in January, was once renowned throughout the housing industry as a brash, flashy, and seemingly unstoppable salesman who was ranked among the top 10 of all loan brokers nationwide. (The indictment notes that he used his ill-gotten gains for a $68,000 BMW.) From 2004 to 2008, he ran the Puyallup-based home-lending division of Pierce Commercial, which was located in Tacoma.
Along with his co-defendants--former bank vice-president Sonja Lightfoot, onetime senior underwriter Jeanette Salsi, and former processor Adam Voelker--Portmann is charged with conspiracy, making false statements on loan applications, bank embezzlement, money laundering, wire fraud, and more.
Tracking what we wrote back in January, the indictment accuses Portmann and his associates of simply making stuff up on loan applications to make it seem as if borrowers could afford properties they couldn't. Imaginary jobs were created, income was otherwise fabricated by saying that borrowers were renting properties for vast sums, borrowers' own rental histories were fudged, and debts were declared paid by copies of cashiers' checks that were never paid.
As much ground as that covers, it doesn't go into other allegations that have previously surfaced in court documents and SW interviews. In a document filed by the feds last summer, for instance, the feds claimed that Portmann kept a stash of money at his house that he used to make clients look richer than they were. In a related case, a former employee of Portmann's talked about this process as "seasoning" borrowers' bank accounts.
Still, there's enough piling on in the indictment to potentially land Portmann and his onetime cohorts in jail for a long, long time. Bank embezzlement and wire fraud alone carry a combined maximum sentence of 50 years. Portmann is scheduled to appear in Tacoma's federal court at 3 p.m. today.