The Con – Ohio’s Case for RICO
When we talk about RICO – Racketeer Influences and Corrupt Organizations Act (1970) – most people think of how it has largely been used in Federal cases against the mafia. The passing of RICO in 1970 was the result of a decades-old effort to fight organized crime. Within two years of RICO passing, states began adopting their own RICO laws. There are now 33 states who have RICO laws to combat criminal organizations of any kind, Ohio being one of them.
RICO and Wall Street?
How could we apply this to “legitimate” businesses whose practices run afoul of the law? Finding out why was central to our mission in making “The Con”. On one of our many road trips around the country, our producer Patrick Lovell and director Eric Vaughan voiced the question: Why hadn’t the interconnected web of mortgage fraud perpetrators and their beneficiaries been brought up on RICO charges.
Given apparent coordination among different businesses in the mortgage and securities pipeline, it seemed to fit the textbook definition of a RICO crime. We later found out that former Deputy Director of the Criminal Investigative Unit of the FBI Chris Swecker had a national case built and ready to go against lenders as early as 2004. As we delved further into our investigation, we found the tragic story of Addie Polk, which would be the key story in The Con.
Akron, Addie, and Don
Research into Addie’s story ultimately led us to far more than we could have anticipated. It started with a handful of local folks who had knowledge of Addie and her case. Enter retired Lt. Don Fatheree, the former Summit County Sheriff Deputy who was present at Addie Polk’s house on the day of the tragedy. Don had been there to deliver a notice of foreclosure
when he and his fellow deputies heard what sounded like gunshots coming from the upstairs.
When I arrived he seemed to appreciate that I had found him via the phonebook and invited me in. He was gentle and plain-spoken and had lived in Akron his entire life. If I had to guess, like many people, he was simply apprehensive about being on camera.
At first, he declined to participate in The Con but the series’ benefit, Deputy Fatheree ultimately decided to appear on camera. To our surprise, his contribution didn’t end there. In conversations about our series, he suggested we talk to his former boss, Summit County Sheriff Steve Barry. As it would turn out, what Barry had for us was a RICO case right in our backyard.
A Big Win in a Small Town
In 2008 then Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann organized a local law enforcement task force to investigate mortgage fraud in various Ohio counties. In Summit County, it led to the 2010 conviction of Dave Willan and 16 others from Evergreen mortgage. Willan himself plead guilty to 68 charges for running a pyramid scheme using a web of companies – for mortgage lending, construction, title, and appraisal – that committed acts of fraud against the general public.
Overall, the task force organized by Dann and continued by his successor Richard Cordray identified dozens of cases and prosecuted hundreds of millions of dollars in mortgage fraud. These crimes stole unsuspecting people’s equity, trusts, and life savings, resulting in manifold
bankruptcies, divorces, homelessness, and suicides.
The crimes prosecuted in Ohio were and continue to be the same crimes being perpetrated on a national level by the chain of corporations linking up to Wall Street. Those crimes were never prosecuted. And we always felt it is worth asking why.
You can watch the first episode of “The Con” right now! Visit TheCon.TV to find out how to watch it and future episodes.