In 2006, Lacey Phillips and her boyfriend, Erin Hall, applied for a loan to buy a home in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, but it was denied because Hall had previously declared bankruptcy. Undeterred, the couple, who were soon to be married, sought out Brian Bowling, a mortgage broker from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
Bowling helped the couple get what would later become known as a “liar’s loan.” Thousands of these mortgage loans were given to people who did not have the salaries or assets to afford a conventional loan. They were often granted based on inflated or even concocted income figures.
Bowling arranged for the couple to apply for a loan in June 2006 at Fremont Investment & Loan, a California-based bank that eventually collapsed in 2008 and was described in court as an institution of “dubious ethics.”
Phillips was a hairdresser and Hall was a barber (Bowling was one of his customers). The application to Fremont was made out in Phillips’ name only, but listed their combined income. The couple obtained a $220,000 loan and ultimately lost the home to foreclosure when their interest rate escalated and a large balloon payment came due.
Federal authorities investigated the collapse of Fremont and ultimately indicted Bowling on charges of submitting bogus information to secure $1.7 million in loans that resulted in $434,000 in losses. Bowling was sentenced to 51 months in prison.
Phillips and Lacey were indicted in 2011 on charges of conspiring to defraud Fremont and making a false statement to defraud the bank.
They were convicted in September 2011 after the trial judge refused to allow them to present evidence that Bowling told them that Phillips should be the only loan applicant and that the combined income of both Phillips and Hall should be put on the loan application. Bowling told them this was proper because the bank was asking for the total income from which the loan would be repaid, not just Phillips’ income.
They were each sentenced to 60 days in jail and ordered to jointly make restitution of nearly $88,000.
In September 2013, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the convictions. The court held that the defense evidence should have been admitted to support the couple’s claim that they had no intent to make a false statement to convince the bank to make the loan.
On January 29, 2014, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin dismissed the charges.
– Maurice Possley
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.