Garrett County Developer Pleads Guilty in $5.7 Million Bank Fraud Scheme
BALTIMORE, MD—Samuel R. VanSickle, age 51, of Accident, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit bank fraud arising from three fraudulent bank loans in which VanSickle received proceeds from the sale of real property in Garrett County, Maryland, and Cheat Lake, West Virginia, totaling over $5.7 million.
The plea agreement was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Kevin Perkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
VanSickle and co-defendant Louis Strosnider owned and developed property in Garrett County, Maryland. VanSickle used a number of different business names, including Freedom Church, Gospel Church, Equity Exchange, Unity Mortgage, Impartial Lenders, and Noble Forest Consultants, and aliases including “Donald Blunt,” “Jacob Aiken,” “Allen Helms,” and “Paul Walsh.” Strosnider operated Stony Brook Development Company, located in McHenry, Maryland.
According to his plea agreement, from December 2001 to May 2005, VanSickle conspired with Louis Strosnider for Strosnider to fraudulently obtain real estate loans from banks in connection with the purchase of properties controlled through aliases by VanSickle. VanSickle concealed from the lenders his role as seller of the properties and recipient of the sales proceeds through fictitious identities such as “Donald Blunt, Trustee for Gospel Church,” “Donald Blunt, Trustee for Freedom Church,” “Equity Exchange,” “Unity Mortgage,” “Jacob Aiken” and “Allen Helms.” The scheme also involved fictitious down payments, inflated collateral, and false contracts.
For example, in 2002, VanSickle provided $600,000 for the purchase of Red Run, a restaurant and bed and breakfast which bordered on Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County, Maryland. In April 2003, VanSickle caused Red Run to be transferred for $0 to “Donald Blunt, Trustee for Gospel Church”—a fictitious church with a fictitious trustee. In February 2004, Strosnider signed a contract to buy Red Run from Gospel Church for $3 million. The contract recited a fictitious $750,000 down payment. Strosnider applied to a bank for a loan to complete the purchase of Red Run. When the bank required additional collateral, VanSickle supplied a timber contract for land in Garrett County with a valuation signed by “Paul Walsh” of “Noble Forest Consultants.” Both “Noble Forest Consultants” and “Paul Walsh” were fictitious. The settlement for the sale of the property was conducted by attorney Angela Blythe. Blythe failed to collect Strosnider’s funds to close the loan. At VanSickle’s direction, Blythe paid over the sales proceeds of $1.6 million to “Unity Mortgage,” which was VanSickle. “Unity Mortgage” did not, in fact, have a mortgage on Red Run.Strosnider and VanSickle used similar fraudulent methods in Strosnider’s purchase from VanSickle of 5.87 acres on State Park Road, bordering Deep Creek Lake, and 116 acres of undeveloped land on Cheat Lake, West Virginia.
VanSickle received over $5.7 million in sales proceeds from the fraudulent transactions. Strosnider defaulted on all three loans. As a result of the scheme, the loss to the financial institutions was $2,755,102.50, the amount of the loans minus the recovery from foreclosure and sale of the collateral. VanSickle has agreed to forfeit and pay restitution in that amount, and forfeit his interest in 40 properties held in VanSickle’s name or in the names of nominees in Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, up to the value of $2,755,102.50.
VanSickle faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for the conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis scheduled sentencing for March 17, 2016, at 9:30 a.m.
Louis W. Strosnider, III, age 49, of Oakland, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to his participation in the conspiracy and awaits sentencing. In a related case, Angela M. Blythe, age 52, of Oakland, Maryland, was convicted by a federal jury on October 9, 2015, after a nine day trial, of conspiring with VanSickle to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, and two counts of making a false statement to a bank. U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles sentenced Blythe to a year and a day in prison, and entered an order requiring Blythe to forfeit $696,517 and pay restitution of $948,203.25.
Today’s announcement is part of the efforts undertaken in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI for its work in the investigation and thanked Assistant United States Attorney Joyce K. McDonald and Philip A. Selden, who are prosecuting the case.