St. Louis-Area Man Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges
ST. LOUIS, MO—Ronald L. Roberts pled guilty today to charges of mail and wire fraud in connection with his obtaining more than a million dollars from lenders in what he now admits was a loan fraud scheme.
According to court documents, Roberts solicited personal loans for a fictitious real estate transaction involving property in or around Poplar Bluff, Missouri, which Roberts claimed he owned and planned to sell to Wal-Mart. In some instances, Roberts claimed that the funds were needed to buy out the interests of family members, including his half-brother, who had purportedly asserted claims against the property; in others, he claimed that it was necessary to extinguish liens or perform environmental remediation; in yet others, he claimed that one or more parties associated with the transaction were demanding additional sums to close the transaction.
Roberts usually promised lenders either that their money would be returned in a matter of days or weeks at most, usually with considerable interest, or that they would receive a portion of the profits that Roberts expected to generate from the fictitious transaction. The rate of return promised by Roberts varied from 0% to at least as much as 180%, with terms varying between a couple of weeks and a few hours.
In truth, Roberts owned a piece of property, constituting less than ten (10) acres in size, in Neelyville, Missouri, more than ten (10) miles outside of Poplar Bluff, Missouri. At the time of Roberts’s representations, the property had a market value of less than $30,000 and was encumbered by a judgment against Roberts in excess of $13 million, making the property worthless to Roberts. During the scheme, Wal-Mart had not made any offer to purchase that property, nor did it have any present plans to develop additional land in or near Poplar Bluff where there is already an existing Wal-Mart store. Instead, Roberts employed funds given to him by lenders for his own personal use.
Roberts, 54, of Town and Country, MO, pled guilty to three felony counts of wire fraud one felony count of mail fraud. He appeared before United States District Judge E. Richard Webber, in St. Louis. Sentencing has been set for October 16, 2014.
Each count of mail and wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or fines of up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentences, a judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorney Richard E. Finneran is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.