Honest Services ruling sets free South Florida defendant convicted in real estate fraud case

A man charged in a high-profile case of real estate fraud in South Florida has been released on a signature bond as a result of the “honest services” ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Our Miami federal defense attorneys first reported the case of Samir Cabrera on our Miami Criminal Attorney Blog in July. Cabrera, the wife of an NBC-2 News anchor in Fort Myers and the son-in-law of then-Lee County Manager Don Stilwell, was convicted under the “honest services” statute of making $2.8 million by flipping property without disclosing he was part owner. The case was made even more sensational after Frank D’Alessandro, whose real estate company Cabrera worked for, disappeared while kayaking off the New Jersey coast — leading to speculation he was on the run until his body was located several days later.

Cabrera was convicted under the same law as Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and media tycoon Conrad Black. However, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the honest services fraud law, saying it was ripe for abuse by prosecutors because the law’s broad nature permitted conviction for minor transgressions in the business and political world.

A jury failed to convict Cabrera on other fraud-related charges. Prosecutors will now have to retry him on those charges or permit him to go free.

This case illustrates the importance of hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer when charged with a crime in South Florida. In this case, Cabrera’s attorneys knew of the pending “honest services ruling” and argued that their client should not even have been jailed pending the outcome of that case. They were also able to put together a solid defense on the remaining charges, so that Cabrera was able to go free upon the higher court’s ruling.

As the federal government becomes more aggressive in pursuing real estate and mortgage fraud charges in the Miami area, criminal defense attorneys must continue to aggressively defend clients against unfair prosecution.