A Georgia man who swindled churches and small businesses across the country in an “advance-fee” mortgage scam has been sentenced to more than four years in prison.
Jamal E. Lawson Sr., 44, was sentenced to 52 months in prison and ordered to pay $227,252 in restitution for orchestrating the scam, according to the Justice Department.
Prosecutors say that between 2009 and 2010, Lawson promised more than $650 million in loans to more than 30 victims. He never funded a single loan.
“The victim churches lost money obtained from parishioners, wasted their time and efforts dealing with, and missed opportunities to pursue funding through other legitimate sources. In addition, the pastors and business owners suffered losses to their reputations and, in some case, suffered extreme hardships,” a federal prosecutor said at Lawson’s sentencing hearing Thursday.
Lawson offered to provide loans to church pastors and small businesses through any of several companies, advertising low interest rates for churches and small businesses. He told his victims that his companies had approved loans between $300,000 and $206 million and that firm closing dates had been set, according to the Justice Department. However, Lawson knew he didn’t have the ability to fund the loans and didn’t secure funding from third-party lenders.
He told borrowers that they were required to pay advance fees, ranging anywhere from $1,250 to $35,000, before the loans would be disbursed, and that the fees would be refunded if they didn’t receive the loans. Instead, he used the proceeds for his own benefit, according to the Justice Department.