Former attorney pleads guilty to money laundering in auto loan scheme

(iStock / zimmytws)

HOUSTON – Another person has pleaded guilty to money laundering for their role in a Houston-based scheme aimed at defrauding lenders, according to U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

Howard Price Johnson, 62, a disbarred former attorney, was the latest to plead guilty. Jason Ryan Hall, 34, and Anissa Lavon Burdett, 49, pleaded guilty in August and September for their roles in the scheme.

The scheme took place from April to November of 2011, according to officials.

Prosecutors said Hall portrayed himself as a used car dealer who sold luxury vehicles through his supposed car dealerships, EZ Auto Group and 1st Choice Motors. Investigators found that there was no physical existence and no legitimate auto sales were made during that time.

Johnson, Burdett and others acted as straw buyers and applied for loans in order to purchase used cars from Hall’s supposed dealerships.

In the auto loan applications, the straw buyers made multiple misrepresentations to prospective lenders and submitted fake documents that Hall created and supplied.

When the auto loan funds were deposited into the bank accounts of the alleged dealerships, Hall gave a portion of the loan funds to the straw buyers. Officials said that Hall never delivered vehicles to the straw buyers.

During the scheme, straw buyers applied for 16 fraudulent auto loans with a combined value of about $695,741.

Johnson, Hall and Burdett face up to 10 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.