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Thursday 15 May 2014

Sentencing Nears For Former Deeper Life Pastor

Sentencing Nears For Former Deeper Life Pastor And Nigeria UN Mission Lawyer, Eric Abakporo In New York Real Estate Fraud Case

Eric Abakporo
The guilt and conviction of both Ifeanyichukwu Eric Abakporo, and Latanya Pierce, was never in doubt. Both were convicted in a wide-ranging series of illegal transactions in New York City defrauding banks, mortgage lenders, property owners, and property buyers in 2013. It was now a matter of the sentencing, and what sort of punishment each would receive in the case. Yet, their attorneys have delayed sentencing over the last nine months on a number of legal procedures, postponements, and technicalities. 
 The presiding judge in the federal case, US District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, made it clear several times during the Wednesday hearing that legal proceedings would not change the sentencing, but that she would have to listen to the final arguments by the defense. She had to do so, by law. Both defendants in this case face up to 30 years behind bars for what the government called ‘egregious offenses,’ that not only drew the attention of New York State’s Attorney General, but also the attention of federal officials.
Abakporo was found guilty of the federal charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and bank transfer fraud, involving at least two mortgage property lenders. While Latanya Pierce, who was also found guilty on all three counts, faces the same predicament.  Both were absent in the courtroom for today’s hearing.
A team of six defense lawyers led by civil attorney Lee Ginsberg, represented both Abakporo, and Pierce, split at three lawyers each. While the government prosecutors numbered just two, led by U.S. Attorney Michael Lockhardt. There were just a total of ten spectators in the cavernous courtroom.
What the team of defense lawyers argued over were two legal matters of what they termed, “loss versus intended loss,” and the “relevant conduct,” on the part of their clients in the series of transactions they carried out. Legal experts say the court maneuver is one that lawyers use in the hopes of a lesser sentence for convicted felons. It is a technicality used that often delays the inevitable, but one that can shave-off considerable time issued by a presiding judge.
For example, part of the technical argument was over legal guidelines in regards to the loss of funds for financial institutions, versus that of an individual. In one such case noted, if a bank issues a $500,000.00 dollar home purchase loan, and that money is returned in short order, is that a crime, defense attorney Ginsberg asked the court.
Earlier, Judge  Scheidlin made the point that ‘if there is no loss, there is no victim.’
Yet, the prosecuting attorney, Michael Lockhardt, countered that if a bank had made such a loan, that it would still constitute a loss. His reasoning was the intent of that loan, and that a bank would in fact face a loss, because it could earn one million dollars over a 20-year span, money it could now not earn because the intent of the loan was to earn money from it. 
Indeed, this hearing was technical. Both sides went over the seven instances that brought this case to trial, and did so on a case-by-case basis. Judge Scheindlin seemed exasperated at times, and showed her irritation in reciting the transactions the pair had carried out for nearly a ten-year span.     
On the matter of ‘loss versus intended loss,’ Judge Scheindlin said, “it does matter in this case,” citing what she called the jury conviction of the defendants of filing false and fraudulent applications during their time of doing business in New York.
Not discussed during this exchange was the fraudulent series of contracts for renovations Abakporo was linked to at the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations in New York.
Out of the seven properties cited in this federal fraud case, perhaps the most egregious instance was Abakporo’s swindle of Ina McCarther, an 80-year-old African-American woman who owned a Harlem property. She had purchased the northern Harlem Saint Nicholas Avenue building back in 1954, and had hoped to earn nearly $4 million U.S. dollars in the sale.
Abakporo, a former pastor at the Deeper Life Bible Church, used his religious connection, and the fact that he was a Brooklyn-based lawyer, to impress McCarther into trusting him. She did, and paid a price. Abakporo represents that popular Nigerian-based church in New York.
SaharaReporters was also a target of Eric Abakporo’s in a $30 million U.S. dollar libel suit when the fraudulent Nigerian Mission contracts were reported back in 2010.  The threat of the libel suit stood, but was later dropped by Abakporo, when he was indicted in this federal case for wire fraud conspiracy, that covered transactions in three out of New York’s five boroughs.
In total, and not including the fraudulent contracts involving the Nigerian Permanent mission, Abakporo and Pierce were indicted for over $2.5 million U.S. dollars in property and fraud cases across New York.

 U.S. Judge Shira Scheindlin has the reputation as a ‘no nonsense’ judge who sits on the federal bench. That no nonsense reputation remained in place here, as she cited the fact that technicalities or not, that a jury had convicted the pair for illegal and fraudulent practices.
She set the sentencing date in this case for May 28th at 2:30 pm, New York time. Looking at the government attorneys in her closing statements she said that they ‘still had a lot of homework to do in this case.’ But the last words she uttered have set the stage for the May 28th date. She simply said that she is “anxious to do the sentences,” and abruptly ended the day of legal bickering, and nit-picking.

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