By Ron Leir
The federal trial of Kearny Board of Education member John Leadbeater, accused of taking part in a conspiracy to defraud banks of $13 million in mortgage proceeds, has been delayed three months – at the government’s request. The trial of Leadbeater, a former Kearny councilman, is now on for March 2 before Judge Ann Marie Donio in Camden federal court.
Leadbeater’s Jersey City attorney Thomas J. Cammarata raised no objection to the government’s petition. The case had been set for trial early next month but on Oct. 8, government lawyers asked U.S. District Court Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle to designate it as a “complex case,” and, as such, the government gets more time to prepare.
“Complex case or litigation,” as explained by the National Center for State Courts website, is a legal term of art referring to the types of cases “requiring more intensive judicial management. Complexity may be determined by multiple parties, multiple attorneys, geographically dispersed plaintiffs and defendants, numerous expert witnesses, complex subject matter, complicated testimony concerning causation, procedural complexity, complex substantive law, extensive discovery [among other factors].”
On Oct. 21, Judge Simandle granted the government’s request, noting that, “This case involves allegations of conspiracy to commit wire fraud over a period of several years and conspiracy to commit money laundering over a period several years.”
Further, the judge found that, “The discovery in the case is voluminous, in that it includes the documents relevant to approximately 30 real estate transactions occurring between 2006 through 2008.”
Initially, the government – represented by Asst. U.S. Attorney Jacqueline M. Carle – had sought the move the trial from Dec. 1, 2014, to Feb. 2, 2015, “and to exclude the intervening period of time under the [70-day] Speedy Trial Act to allow trial counsel for the government to prepare for trial.”
In response, Cammarata asked for a March date “due to scheduling conflicts,” to which the judge consented, agreeing to make the same exception for the intervening time for the defense.
In March 2013, Leadbeater, 54, was charged with Daniel Cardillo, 49, of Wildwood, in a federal indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with an alleged scheme to recruit straw buyers (Cardillo included) to buy oceanfront condominiums “overbuilt by financially distressed developers in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest.”
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the straw buyers “had good credit scores but lacked the financial resources to qualify for the mortgage loans.” Leadbeater and other co-conspirators allegedly “created … fake employment records, W-2 forms and investment statements to make the straw buyers appear more creditworthy than they actually were to induce the lenders to make the loans,” the feds alleged.
“Once the loans were approved and the mortgage lenders sent the loan proceeds in connection with real estate closings on the properties, Leadbeater and his conspirators took a portion of the proceeds, having funds wired or checks deposited into various accounts they controlled,” the government alleged.
If convicted of wire fraud conspiracy, Leadbeater could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison and fined up to $1 million.
Leadbeater co-defendant Cardillo was severed from his alleged co-conspirator and will stand trial after Leadbeater, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Rebeka Carmichael. They are the two remaining defendants in the feds’ sweeping mortgage fraud case involving at least 11 other alleged conspirators.
Seven of those defendants – Justin Spradley, 35, of Cincinnati, Ohio; Robert Horton, 37, of Nashport, Ohio; Paul Watterson, 53, of Mountainside; Michelle Martinez, 49, of Brick; Ernesto Rodriguez, Matthew Gardner and Steven Schlatmann, 27, of Jersey City – have each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and their sentences are pending, Carmichael said.
Four defendants – John Bingaman, 44, of Benton, Ark.; Dana Rummerfield, 47, of Los Angeles; Debra Hanson, 49, of Voorhees; and Angela Celli, 42, of Somerset, Mass. – have also entered guilty pleas relative to the case and also await sentencing, she said.