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|Lee Farkas found guilty of 'one of largest bank frauds in history'|
|Written by Dyana Bagby|
|Wednesday, 20 April 2011 11:26|
Lee Farkas, once a manager of the company that owned Atlanta gay bar Blake's on the Park, was found guilty Tuesday of being the "mastermind" in a $2.9 billion fraud trial that officials said was "one of the largest bank frauds in history."
The Justice Department's criminal division chief, Lanny Breuer, said Farkas, 58, was "one of the masterminds in one of the largest bank frauds in history" and that his misconduct "poured fuel on the fire of the financial crisis," according to a report by the Associated Press.
In June, Farkas, who is gay, was indicted on one count of conspiracy, six counts of bank fraud, six counts of wire fraud and three counts of securities fraud. Farkas was found guilty of 14 of these counts.
The charges are related to Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp., the Ocala, Fla.-based mortgage lending company where Farkas served as chairman and majority shareholder.
When the indictments were handed down, Blake's general manager said there were no plans to close down the gay bar located in the heart of Midtown.
Johnny Chisholm, a nightclub owner and party promoter, purchased Blake’s in 2003 from owner Alison Brown.
Thunderflower, LLC, purchased Blake’s on the Park, and the now defunct Atlanta gay bars Blu and WETbar, from Chisholm in 2004, according to a report in Ambush Magazine. Thunderflower, LLC, incorporated in Florida in 2004 with Lee Farkas as a manager.
In September 2008, Thunderflower closed WETbar but said Blake’s would not be impacted by the decision.
CPMG, LLC, a Georgia corporation, is now doing business as Blake’s on the Park, according to the minutes of a March 2010 meeting of the Atlanta License Review Board.
CPMG, LLC, was created in April 2003, according to the Georgia Secretary of State office. James Nelson was the registered agent. Currently, Michael Sard is the registered agent, Nelson told the GA Voice today.
Blake’s on the Park was not listed among Farkas’ assets for forfeiture in the extensive federal indictment unsealed in June. Farkas lived in Florida and was a donor to Equality Florida, the state’s gay political group, among other causes.
In a pre-trial detention motion filed June 16, federal prosecutors argued that Farkas should not be released from jail because his substantial assets and the fact that he faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted on all the charges make him a serious flight risk.
“As a result of the indictment, the defendant faces a total statutory maximum sentence of 435 years, fines of at least $13.75 million and forfeiture of at least $22 million,” the motion noted.
The document also alleges that in addition to the fraud, Farkas “misappropriated over $20 million in TBW funds for his personal use,” including some $2.7 million used as a down payment on a private jet. It further argues that Farkas has attempted to hide or liquidate some of his assets after finding out about the federal investigations.
“The defendant has recently quit claim deeded multiple properties to close associates for seemingly inadequate consideration,” the motion alleges.
According to Forbes, Farkas was found guilty after a two week trial.
Farkas also took the stand in his defense, Forbes reported, and said "that he was only trying to help keep his company stay afloat and that he did not believe that what he was doing was wrong."
— Laura Douglas-Brown contributed.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Blake's on the Park and CPMG LLC were the same company. The two have no affiliation.
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