Honest Services decision could impact cases involving Miami mortgage fraud, investment fraud, political wrongdoing

A U.S. Supreme Court opinion could impact a number of real estate fraud convictions in South Florida, including a high-profile case out of Fort Myers that captivated Southwest Floridians for most of the last year.

As our Miami real estate fraud attorneys continue to report on our Miami Criminal Attorney Blog, authorities are in zealous pursuit of mortgage brokers, politicians, police officers and others accused of mortgage or real estate fraud in South Florida. The “honest services” law has been one of the primary vehicles of prosecution.

The News-Press reports that the court decision narrows the scope of the “honest services” law and criticized it as vague and ripe for abuse, saying that it subjected defendants to prosecution for minor transgressions and mistakes in the business and political world. The law has been used to convict a number of Florida mortgage brokers, politicians and others accused of fraud, including Samir Cabrera, who worked as a real estate broker in Fort Myers and Miami until being convicted of money laundering and wire fraud. He is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence. Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling was also convicted based on honest services law.

There has been no bigger news in the Fort Myers/Naples area than the case of Cabrera, who managed a bar before hooking up with commercial real estate tycoon Frank D’Alessandro. Cabrera’s wife, Jessica Stilwell, was the NBC-2 anchor. Her father, was manager of Lee County. Both were forced to resign their positions after Cabrera was charged of selling two tracts of land without disclosing he was part owner. He made $2.8 million on the deal. County Manager Don Stilwell denied any knowledge of wrongdoing. He had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars with his son-in-law. A county investigation cleared him of wrongdoing for failure to disclose his ownership to county commissioners. The longest-serving manager in county history, Stilwell, 70, was ultimately forced to resign for sending racy e-mails on his work computer.

This picture, taken by the Marco News, shows Cabrera and wife Jessica Stilwell leaving the Fort Myers courthouse during the lengthy trial.

Meanwhile, D’Alessandro, whose company was also being sued for marketing rental homes as investments for the wealthy, disappeared while kayaking off the New Jersey coast. Speculation was rampant that he was on the run until authorities found his body several days later.

Cabrera was convicted in October and is currently serving time in a Pensacola prison. His case is pending before the 11th District Court of Appeals. “We believe this is a very favorable ruling for Mr. Cabrera, and we intent to argue that in the appeal,” said Federal Public Defender Russell Rosenthal.

The opinion, authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said prosecutors may still continue to seek honest services fraud convictions in cases where the defendant accepts bribes or kickbacks.