Chicago businessman Brett Immel, represented by Schiff Hardin LLP, has been acquitted after a one-week federal jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Immel was indicted with two co-defendants for conspiring to commit bank fraud through a series of real estate transactions designed to allow investors to take advantage of the GO-Zone tax incentive in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“The verdict in Mr. Immel’s favor vindicates our defense strategy, which was to emphasize that the government had no evidence of criminal intent,” said Schiff Hardin partner William Ziegelmueller, who led Mr. Immel’s defense at trial. “We are proud to have cleared Mr. Immel’s name and convinced that justice was served in this case.”
Mr. Immel, a partner in Hanover Companies, introduced investors from across the country to investment properties along the Gulf Coast. The government alleged that Mr. Immel conspired with a closing agent and title attorney to conceal Hanover’s role in the transactions, in part through the creation of two different HUD-1 settlement statements, only one of which was provided to the mortgage lenders who financed the investors’ purchases of properties from developers.
According to Ziegelmueller, most trials involve a significant dispute as to the facts, but in this case there were few factual disputes. “From the beginning, the government saw two HUD-1s and concluded there must be fraud,” Ziegelmueller said. “They never considered that the defendants believed in good faith that there were two separate transactions, only one of which involved the lender and, therefore, that two closing statements were appropriate.”
One co-defendant, closing agent Daniel Bomar, pled guilty in advance of trial and testified against the remaining defendants. The other co-defendant, Mississippi attorney James Wright, was also acquitted at trial.
“I am extremely gratified that this ordeal is behind me and I can move forward with future business ventures,” Mr. Immel said.
Mr. Ziegelmueller was assisted at trial by Camille M. Knight of Burleson, Pate & Gibson, LLP in Dallas, Texas.