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Heidi Haischer

Other Nevada Exonerations
In July 2011, a federal grand jury in Las Vegas, Nevada indicted Heidi Haischer, a former loan officer at a mortgage brokerage firm, on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud relating to filing fraudulent documents to obtain mortgage loans.

Prior to trial, Haischer’s lawyer sought to introduce testimony that Haischer signed the documents under duress because she had a broken leg and her boyfriend, Kelly Nunes, who was a senior loan officer at the same firm and presented the documents to her to sign, said he would not take her for medical treatment unless she signed the documents.

Haischer’s sister testified at a pretrial hearing that she had witnessed Nunes yelling at her to sign some papers and that Nunes refused to take her to the doctor to treat a badly swollen leg until she signed. X-rays taken a day later showed Haischer’s leg was broken in multiple places.

The prosecution opposed the evidence, but the trial judge ruled that the defense could present the testimony.

In November 2012, Haischer went to trial before a jury in U.S. District Court. The prosecution presented evidence that in January of 2007, Nunes approached her about purchasing some properties as investments. Applications were submitted under Haischer’s name to obtain loans of $540,000 and $135,000 for the purchase of a house in Henderson, Nevada.

The documents falsely said that Haischer had a monthly income of $15,000, that she had $15,000 in the bank and that the residence would be Haischer’s primary residence. Not long after, additional applications were submitted under her name to obtain loans of $428,800 and $102,000 for purchase of home in Las Vegas. These documents said Haischer made $18,000 a month and had $38,000 in a bank account. Haischer’s ownership of the other house was not disclosed in the second application.

Nunes paid another individual $300 to supply false verifications regarding Haischer’s employment and false bank account statements were submitted with the loan applications. The plan, the prosecution contended, was to resell—flip—the properties and turn a profit. In addition, the deals generated brokerage commissions for Haischer and Nunes, the prosecution contended.

Haischer only made a few payments on the loans before defaulting and the properties were sold in foreclosure sales. The lenders suffered substantial losses.

Midway through the trial, Haischer’s defense attorney abandoned the duress defense and switched to a defense theory that Haischer did not have the necessary intent to defraud required under the law. As a result, the prosecution then asked that the evidence regarding the physical abuse be barred and the judge granted the motion.

When Haischer took the witness stand, she testified that she had not submitted the documents and that Nunes had access to her bank account statements. She said that Nunes filled out the documents and that she signed them. The defense was not allowed to present any evidence of abuse, although Haischer was permitted to testify that she was verbally badgered by Nunes and that he was an intimidating man. In addition, the jury was instructed to “disregard any testimony of alleged abuse” of Haischer by Nunes.

On November 9, 2012, the jury convicted Haischer of conspiracy and wire fraud. She was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Nunes was convicted separately and sentenced to 51 months in prison in a mortgage fraud case.

In March 2015, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals vacated Haischer’s conviction and ruled that she should have been allowed to present the evidence of abuse.

“The evidence that Haischer’s leg was broken and that Nunes required Haischer to sign the loan papers before she could be taken to the doctor to have it treated suggested that Haischer was, at a minimum, under pressure to sign the documents,” the appeals court said. “Had this evidence been before the jury, a reasonable juror might have doubted whether Haischer had the requisite knowledge and intent to commit fraud.”

In March 2016, Haischer went to trial a second time and her lawyers, Lisa Rasmussen and Michael Kennedy, were allowed to present the evidence that had been prohibited at the first trial. On March 14, 2016, the jury, after less than three hours of deliberation, acquitted Haischer.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/21/2016
Most Serious Crime:Fraud
Additional Convictions:Fraud
Reported Crime Date:2007
Sentence:1 year and 3 months
Age at the date of reported crime:38
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No