A nationally syndicated radio talk show host and Chicago attorney was indicted in Illinois federal court late last month for his alleged role in a mortgage fraud ring. His attorneys say he is innocent and that it "is not a close case."
Warren Ballentine steadfastly denies his involvement in a fraudulent scam that investigators say involved more than 30 members of a crime ring and defrauded mortgage lenders of nearly $10 million in a time frame extending from late 2004 to May 2006. Federal prosecutors contend that the ring -- which consisted of mortgage brokers, loan officers, homebuilders, attorneys, tax preparers and fake home buyers -- obtained more than 150 fraudulent loans. Most of the persons investigated were indicted in 2006 and are now in prison following their convictions on charges including bank fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud.
Ballentine is easily and clearly separated from the group, say his lawyers, who add that the late indictment against him -- which did not issue until last month, years after most of the other involved persons had already been convicted -- reflects a flimsy case that won't hold up in court.
Ballentine was a neighbor of one of the principal defendants and a relatively new attorney when he was asked on a number of occasions to sit in on real estate closings. He was paid a standard legal rate for that and made an estimated $10,000 over a three-year period. His supporters argue that such an amount -- especially in light of the $10 million fraud and the fact that Ballentine worked on about 30 closings to make the money -- points away rather than toward fraud, adding that Ballentine would hardly risk losing his license and career for the approximately $3,000 a year he made helping an acquaintance.
His legal team says that he was unaware of any scheme and that a witness in the case says Ballentine "didn't know what was going on." Charles Steele, a friend of Ballentine's and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, says that Ballentine "is a man of integrity."
Ballentine says he will fight hard to clear his name and that the experience has been "a nightmare."
Source: The Final Call, "Warren Ballentine fights for his 'good name,'" George Curry, Feb. 11, 2013