June 22, 2024
Mortgage

Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore’s ex-prosecutor, testifies at mortgage fraud trial


Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore’s former top prosecutor, testified at her federal mortgage fraud trial Wednesday, saying she did not believe she had committed any crimes while purchasing two vacation properties in Florida during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mosby told the jury in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt that she placed her trust in her husband, her mortgage broker and her real estate agent when she signed stacks of paperwork during the home-buying and closing processes in 2020 and 2021.

That trust, she said, was broken.

Mosby said her now ex-husband, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby, was repeatedly dishonest with her about the state of the couple’s finances, including about unpaid federal taxes that were jointly filed and a $45,000 lien from the Internal Revenue Service. Marilyn Mosby also said her real estate agent, a childhood friend whom she considered family, introduced her to a mortgage broker who gave her bad counsel about what was — and was not — allowed when purchasing secondary properties.

What resulted, according to federal prosecutors, was seven false statements made by Mosby to two separate mortgage lending companies as she moved to purchase the first property, an eight-bedroom home in Kissimmee, Fla., just minutes from Disney World, and the second, a beach condominium in Longboat Key, Fla.

In taking the stand Wednesday, a possibility her attorneys had been teasing for months, Mosby delivered a dramatic and deeply personal story to jurors, revealing details of her fraught marriage — one that has been on public display and under scrutiny in Baltimore for over a decade.

The couple had climbed politically in parallel to one another, Nick Mosby as a native son of Baltimore who has served on the city council and in the Maryland State House, and Marilyn Mosby as the young progressive prosecutor who stepped into the national spotlight after criminally charging six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray.

But behind the scenes, according to testimony from both Mosbys this week, their marriage was in turmoil — particularly over their finances. Marilyn Mosby said she had threatened to leave her husband over his dishonesty with her about their taxes, and they had considered separating numerous times.

During his own testimony earlier in the trial, Nick Mosby claimed responsibility for landing his ex-wife in criminal court. “Throughout this entire process,” he said, “I lied to her about everything being okay with the taxes.”

Marilyn Mosby filed for divorce in the summer of 2023.

The trial that began last week is the second federal criminal case Mosby has faced in recent months, both related to her vacation home purchases. Last November, a different jury convicted Mosby on two counts of perjury after she was charged with lying about her finances to withdraw $90,000 from her city retirement account to buy the Florida homes. Prosecutors argued that Mosby falsely claimed she was experiencing financial hardships during the pandemic to access the money through a Cares Act program.

The collection of mortgage fraud and perjury charges were split into two separate trials and moved from Baltimore to Greenbelt after Mosby’s lawyer argued that a jury in the city where the defendant was a controversial prosecutor would not be fair.

Ahead of the current trial, the judge in the case, Lydia K. Griggsby, said federal prosecutors could establish that Mosby was convicted of perjury on cross-examination. But any additional information about the perjury case, Griggsby ruled, would need to be addressed in the moment, based on what Mosby and her defense attorneys introduced during her testimony.

Mosby beat prosecutors to the reveal on the witness stand Wednesday, acknowledging her perjury conviction outright. She told the jury she intended to appeal it.

Her attorney asked why she chose to testify in her second trial. She said: “Because I regret not testifying before, and I want this jury to hear my truth.”

That sentence forced Griggsby, federal prosecutors and Mosby’s public defenders into a prolonged debate about how the rest of the case might unfold before the jury. Prosecutors argued that Mosby’s final statement — as well as other elements of her testimony — opened the door for deeper questioning about certain elements of the perjury trial.

Mosby’s defense attorneys tried to minimize the weight of her words and offered to strike them from the record and advise the jury to disregard them.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Zelinsky called Mosby’s statement “a bell that is very, very hard to unring.”

The judge agreed, granting prosecutors the leeway to narrowly question Mosby about the perjury case, sternly instructing them and the defense to show restraint and avoid relitigating a trial that has already happened — especially as the current mortgage fraud trial verges on its third week.

Mosby’s testimony Wednesday did not dispute the core facts in the case prosecutors had presented, but rather the context around them.

Jurors will have to weigh whether that context matters — and if Mosby indeed knew enough at the time she signed her mortgage documents to be held criminally liable for fraud.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland has alleged that Mosby did not reveal the unpaid federal taxes or IRS lien on her mortgage applications. But Mosby testified that her then-husband had assured her that both were being taken care of by him, and that he had long been responsible for the couple’s taxes.

Prosecutors also alleged that Mosby signed a “second home rider” on the Kissimmee property — which had eight bedrooms, six bathrooms and a pool — that allowed her to obtain a lower mortgage rate and included a promise that the space would be primarily used as a second home.

Mosby then hired a property management company to rent the home when she wasn’t there, which prosecutors alleged violated the terms of the second home rider.

Again, Mosby cast the blame for this document contradiction elsewhere, this time onto her mortgage broker. She told the jury that she believed she had done nothing wrong by hiring the management company because the broker had assured her that she needed to stay at the Kissimmee home only one day a year for it to qualify as a second home.

Mosby also claimed that she “did not read every single document” that she signed in September 2020 when she closed on the Kissimmee home and that she did not recall specifically signing the second home rider.

Prosecutors had argued that during the purchase process for the Longboat Key property, Mosby’s mortgage lender asked for a letter explaining her planned use for the home, in which Mosby discussed the Kissimmee house and said she and her family had spent the last 70 days there. But in fact, she had not spent 70 days there, prosecutors argued.

During her testimony Wednesday, Mosby explained away the discrepancy as a matter of approximation. She and her family had spent large chunks of time at the Florida property between September and November 2020, just not consecutively.

Prosecutors had also told jurors that to secure the Longboat Key property, a gift letter submitted to the mortgage lender — signed by both Marilyn and Nick Mosby — claimed that Marilyn Mosby had received a $5,000 gift from her husband. But prosecutors claimed that money originated from Marilyn Mosby’s account and was transferred to her husband’s account, then transferred back to her account.

Mosby offered an alternative explanation from the witness stand. She did not initially need the $5,000 gift, she said, because she had set the money aside in her minor daughter’s bank account for safe keeping. She needed the $5,000 in her account to close the deal and had set it aside so that she did not unintentionally spend it on other bills.

But putting the money in her daughter’s account had tainted it, according to her mortgage broker, so she needed to find it elsewhere. The broker suggested her husband gift it to her and document it in a gift letter, Mosby testified. She didn’t trust he would have the funds, however, so when her next paycheck hit — she transferred her own $5,000 into his account, just in case.

Prosecutors began cross-examining Mosby on Wednesday and will resume Thursday.

Earlier in Marilyn Mosby’s mortgage fraud trial, Nick Mosby testified for the defense. He told the court that he lied to his then-wife about their finances to “protect” her and prevent “any additional harm to our marriage” during a time when she was under immense stress and receiving death threats during the Gray case.



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