Louisiana Man Sentenced to 20 Years Prison for Defrauding Hawai‘i Residents
A 49-year-old man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after being convicted of fraud in connection with a fraudulent mortgage relief scheme that targeted Hawai‘i’s Filipino immigrant community.
After a four-week trial, a federal jury convicted Anthony T. Williams of Pineville, Louisiana was convicted of 32 counts of wire fraud and mail fraud on March 3, 2020. He was sentenced by US District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi on Monday.
Williams marketed a fraudulent mortgage debt reduction scheme to distressed homeowners, who were mostly non-native English speakers in the Filipino immigrant community in Hawai‘i. Williams created two companies, Mortgage Enterprise Investments (MEI) and Common Law Office of America (CLOA), neither of which was licensed to service or modify mortgages.
Between 2012-15, Williams enlisted 112 victims in Hawai‘i into his MEI program and fraudulently obtained over $230,000 from his victims, without providing any legitimate services. Several victims testified at trial that they had relied upon Williams’s representations and went into foreclosure or bankruptcy. Two victims testified that they lost their homes as a result of Williams’s scheme.
“For several years, Anthony Williams actively preyed upon distressed homeowners within the Filipino community here in the State of Hawai‘i. His scheme financially devastated his victims, forcing some into bankruptcy and homelessness. As a result of this prosecution, Williams’s scheme has come to an end and Williams will be incarcerated for 20 years. My office will continue to protect the most vulnerable members of our community,” said U.S. Attorney Kenji M. Price.
Through MEI, Williams made conflicting promises to clients that he could eliminate their existing mortgage obligations to their lenders, or reduce their mortgage obligations by half. Through CLOA, Williams promised legal representation in mortgage-related litigation and foreclosure proceedings. To give himself the appearance of credibility, Williams told prospective clients he was a “private attorney general” and brandished an official-looking law enforcement badge and credentials, despite not having a law license or any affiliation with law enforcement.
Williams falsely promised victims that he could eliminate their existing home mortgage obligations by filing bogus documents with the Hawai‘i Bureau of Conveyances. These documents included new MEI mortgages and notes obligating homeowners to make monthly payments to MEI. Williams then advised homeowners to stop making their mortgage payments to their lenders and to pay him instead.
“Williams knowingly targeted and preyed upon citizens of our Filipino community” said Eli Miranda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Honolulu Division. “He took advantage of this vulnerable and in need population, delivering empty promises. He drained their finances leaving many penniless. The FBI cannot, and will not stand by. We will continue to maximize our efforts with partner agencies to bring these perpetrators to justice and hold them accountable for their crimes.”
In addition to a term of imprisonment, the Court also imposed three years of supervised release, and restitution. The Court’s sentence of imprisonment is to run consecutively to a fifteen-year sentence of imprisonment that another court had handed down earlier to Williams for similar fraudulent conduct in the State of Florida.