TAMPA — A Tampa man has been sentenced to 26 years in prison for foreclosure fraud, and authorities say he defaulted on $1.4 million in loans.
According to federal court documents, John W. Lebron, 33, orchestrated foreclosure rescue fraud and short sale fraud, sometimes called "flopping" a house.
Lebron, who was a licensed real estate agent at the time, opened a company called EZ Investments in 2005 with his wife. In their first deal, Lebron arranged for his sister, Cynthia Lebron, to buy a house that was falling into foreclosure.
John Lebron controlled both ends of the deal — and also served as the loan officer. He got the mortgage broker's commission, even though he put another loan officer's name on the paperwork to hide his plan. He pocketed the proceeds from the sale.
Then, Lebron arranged a short sale of the house to his brother-in-law and simultaneously set up the sale of the house to another straw buyer, whom Lebron arranged to buy the house before the short sale proposal was submitted to the bank.
Lebron gathered fake pay stubs to make it appear this unemployed straw buyer was eligible for a loan. Lebron and his family members pocketed the money from the loan, as well as other commissions and fees. The straw buyers each were paid $5,000 for their help.
In addition to this, Lebron got four other loans through fraud, court records show.
He was arrested in June 2011 and is no longer licensed as a real estate agent.
On Oct. 19, after a three-week jury trial, he was found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud affecting a financial institution and making false statements to a financial institution.
A judge ordered that Lebron return nearly $1.5 million, and on Friday he was sentenced to 26 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release.
The Tampa Bay Times wrote about Lebron in January 2011, before this arrest, when he said he was the victim of a neighbor's harassment.
Lebron's neighbor, Ellis "Rex" Curry IV, and Lebron had been feuding since 2007. Lebron said it was because Curry hated the Lebrons' dogs' barking.
In January 2011, Curry shot Lebron's American bulldog and told police he did it in self-defense. Lebron said he did not believe that. Curry declined to comment for that article.
In 2005, LeBron was charged with possession with intent to sell GHB, an illegal steroid with strong sedative properties. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years of probation.
He was on probation when, according to federal records, he engaged in foreclosure fraud.
Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.