U.S. District Judge Richard Haik appeared dubious but put off sentencing until he could narrow the gap between what the prosecutor says Francois pocketed for arranging loans for unqualified buyers and what Francois said she actually made.
Francois, whose candidacy for St. Martinville City Council in 2002 led to election fraud convictions for her opponents, could get up to 20 years in prison in this case.
“I’ve done wrong and I’m here to apologize for what I’ve done,” she told Judge Haik.
She said she wants to share her experience as an object lesson for disadvantaged clients of a program where she now lives in Texas.
“Why should I do this when you put $423,000 in the bank because of this fraud?” Haik replied.
Francois said most of the money the government accuses her of receiving was actually payback for money she gave clients for down payments.
U.S. Attorney Luke Walker disputed that, and Haik put off sentencing Francois until he could get to the bottom of it.
Francois, former owner of America’s Best Mortgage and Creative Solutions in St. Martinville, pleaded guilty to submitting false loan applications to mortgage lenders on behalf of clients. She said she falsified documents to make it appear borrowers were purchasing homes for significantly higher amounts than the actual purchase price.
The scheme ran from September 2005 through February 2008 and resulted in about $2.3 million in mortgages for people who did not have the income or credit rating necessary to obtain loans.
Francois admitted that she made agreements with sellers that allowed her to pocket the difference between loans and purchase prices as part of her “payment” for obtaining the loan.
After losing the District 3 seat to Pam Thibodeaux by 13 votes in the May 2002 runoff election, Francois cried foul. Eight people were subsequently convicted of election fraud, Pam Thibodeaux in federal court and seven of her supporters in state court.