My Favorite Mug

January 15th, 2011 by Editor B

This is my favorite coffee cup.

Citywide Mug

I like the neoclassical architectural detail, which of course can still be seen at 3625 Canal Street.

Greek Gods

Citywide

I believe Citywide Mortgage is defunct. Out of idle curiosity, I did a quick net search while drinking my coffee this morning and turned up the following…

For Immediate Release
April 20, 2009

United States Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Louisiana
Contact: (504) 680-3000

President of Citywide Mortgage Michael O’Keefe, Jr. Pleads Guilty to Making False Statements During a HUD Transaction

NEW ORLEANS, LA—MICHAEL O’KEEFE, JR. age 49, a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana and President of Citywide Mortgage Company, pled guilty in federal court this morning before U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle to making false statements during a transaction with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten.

The charge to which O’KEEFE pled was contained in a superseding information that was filed this morning. According to the factual basis as well those filed in the prosecutions of CALVIN DAVIS and MICHELLE COCHRANE describes a “housing flipping” scheme at Citywide Mortgage Company. DAVIS purchased properties in the 9th Ward and Lower 9th Ward, obtained fraudulent appraisals and arranged for straw buyers to purchase them. DAVIS then sent the strawbuyers to Citywide Mortgage to obtain loans by using fraudulent employment and credit documents as well as false tax returns. These loans were approved by MICHELLE COCHRANE, a former underwriter at Citywide Mortgage knowing that the loans were fraudulent. After she approved the fraudulent loan applications, the loans were forwarded to the HUD offices in Denver, Colorado. Based on the fraudulent applications, HUD insured the loans, which were then sold to investors on the secondary market. Various properties eventually went into default and HUD became responsible for paying off those loans.

O’KEEFE was the president of Citywide Mortgage Company during the pendency of the scheme. O’KEEFE admitted today that he assisted the scheme by paying commissions to COCHRANE at CWM and hiding that fact from HUD during the insurance application process. Specifically, the defendant agreed to pay COCHRANE commissions for originating HUD/FHA loans. This was a violation of HUD regulations which prohibited an underwriter from receiving a commission for originating HUD loans. COCHRANE received these commission payments through at least August, 2002. This was accomplished by either listing the defendant as the loan originator or listing a ghost employee “B.C.,” as the loan originator. A check was issued to “B.C.”, endorsed by COCHRANE and deposited in her bank account. The checks were issued by Citywide Mortgage and signed by O’KEEFE. These false statements, that is, the false identity of the loan originator were included in the file submission to HUD.

The plea agreement requires O’KEEFE to pay $686,565.55 in restitution to HUD. He is required to pay $100,000.00 of that amount within 30 days of his plea of guilty. The remaining restitution is due prior to sentencing. The plea agreement also stipulates that the original indictment will be dismissed after sentencing. Sentencing is set for July 22, 2009 at 2:00 P.M. before Judge Lemelle.

O’KEEFE faces a maximum term of imprisonment of two (2) years imprisonment a fine of $250,000.00 and up to one (1) year of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.

O’KEEFE, JR. is the seventh person to plead guilty to charges stemming from this investigation. CALVIN DAVIS pled guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud, Income Tax Evasion and Making a False Statement in a HUD transaction and is awaiting sentencing. MICHELLE COCHRANE pled guilty to Conspiracy to Make False Statements in a HUD transaction and is awaiting sentencing. ROBERT GREEN pled guilty to an identical charge and admitted that he prepared the fraudulent tax returns. Three “straw buyers” TIMOTHY FALLS, DENNIS ADDISON and DENNIS LEBLANC have pled guilty to Making False Statements in HUD Transaction. GREEN, FALLS, ADDISON and LEBLANC have all been sentenced to probationary terms.

This case was investigated jointly by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division and the United States Postal Inspection Service.

This case is being prosecuted by the Chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force Unit, Mark A. Miller and Assistant United States Attorneys Michael M. Simpson and Kevin G. Boitmann.

10 Responses to “My Favorite Mug”

  1. Grampa Ray Says:

    The question is begged. Where, when, andwhy did you get the mug?

  2. Grampa Ray Says:

    I just had another look at the mug. I really like it too. It’s not only good looking but takes on a special aura after reading the news story.

  3. rickngentilly Says:

    sr. was a trip as well.

    they used to drink in the brewpub that was on n. carrolton back in the day.

    used to hear a lot of stories from those boys once they had a few.

    jr. threw a hell of a going away party for himself in one of the private dining rooms where i work.

    jr. also told me that that sculpture was from their old building in the c.d.b.

    here’s a story about sr. from wwl.

    Mike Hoss, with additional reporting by Mike Perlstein and Marcy Planer / Eyewitness News 4 Investigates
    wwltv.com
    Posted on May 13, 2010 at 9:42 PM
    Updated Thursday, May 13 at 9:56 PM

    NEW ORLEANS — On Hickory Street in Uptown New Orleans, not far from the Riverbend area, you may not notice it, but you’ll find a university.
    According to an FBI search warrant, a duplex in the 8200 block of Hickory is the Internet’s Columbus University. The FBI confirms that it recently raided it as part of an investigation, calling it a “diploma mill,” and its business of selling diplomas, a fraud.
    An FBI spokesperson would not offer any additional comment, calling this an ongoing investigation. But in its search warrant, the FBI lays out a scenario that it says is designed to deceive would-be students from all over the world, and it says the university’s operators are doing so on computers inside the house.
    Columbus University would mail out diplomas, law degrees and doctorates, according to FBI agents, in courses like psychology, chemistry, nursing, biology and dozens more, even though the online university has only one professor and no one qualified to award doctorates.
    Additionally, Columbus University has no state accreditation from Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama, where it claims to operate, meaning the degrees are worthless.
    According to the FBI, Columbus operators are getting help keeping it a secret from students, from a well-known person in a strange place.
    The search warrant says Michael O’Keefe Sr., a high-ranking Louisiana state senator for 24 years, was providing instructions to the school’s director, a Dr. Mary Martin. That includes not telling students about the true nature of Columbus University’s operations, according to the FBI.
    The FBI also alleges that the 78-year-old former senate president was doing so from inside of the Butner federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, where he’s serving 19 years for stealing from a failed insurance company.
    Former U.S. attorney Harry Rosenberg said O’Keefe could be a central figure in the university probe.
    “It suggests that O’Keefe was actually the one being the mastermind behind all this, because he was giving instructions as to how to run this diploma mill,” Rosenberg said.
    When O’Keefe went to jail in 1999, it marked a third federal conviction, the end of a decades’ long legal battle, and a fall from grace and power.
    “I am 67 years old. My life is about to end anyhow, but what they’ve put my family through. It’s unbelievable,” an emotional O’Keefe said in 1999 after his sentencing.
    “His downfall was one of the most spectacular, in the sense of how big it was, how powerful he was, and how far he fell, in my lifetime,” said Clancy DuBos, Channel 4 political analyst and Gambit political columnist.
    DuBos said the power broker used to be called the “snowman.”
    “They said he could walk across a field of snow and not leave tracks. Well, that was in the 1970s and ’80s. Nowadays, with technology and the federal government having all of its vast powers, it’s very hard to weave webs that can’t be seen,” DuBos said.
    Also inside of Butner prison is O’Keefe’s son, Michael O’Keefe Jr. He’s doing 18 months for a house-flipping scam involving the federal government. Based on the search warrant of the Hickory Street duplex, the FBI confiscated five pages worth of materials, several computers and hard drives, bank and payroll records and 25 boxes of documents. One of them was listed as bank and tax records for Michael O’Keefe Jr.
    “This seems to smack of uniqueness, because you’ve got father and son, both of whom are serving time for federal offenses,” Rosenberg said. “And now both are being investigated again for criminal activities that seem to overlap with their prior offenses.”
    There is a history that goes back three decades between Michael O’Keefe Sr. and Columbus University’s leader, Mary Martin, who was then Mary Blacksher, and served as O’Keefe’s accountant. In the early 1980s, both were indicted in a $6 million bank fraud case.
    Eyewitness News went to the house on Hickory Street, looking for Dr. Mary Martin and answers about the FBI’s probe and the O’Keefe’s alleged involvement. A young woman working on a computer in the front room answered the door and said she would get Mary Martin, who never came.
    “We’re not going to comment,” the woman answering the door said.
    According to the FBI search warrant, the working operations of Columbus University, in business for a decade, are three women on computers, including Martin. The FBI says she has no advanced degrees. Another woman identified by the FBI is Dr. Shannon O’Brien, the school’s lone professor for 50 degrees offered, whom the FBI says awarded herself a doctorate from Columbus University. The third woman, according to the search warrant, is Helen Anglade.
    You can view the Columbus website in English, French or Arabic. The FBI says that’s because Columbus has an affiliate school in Saudi Arabia, and that a Saudi business partner sends money and a list of names to Hickory Street, then the diplomas are mailed back overseas to foreign students.
    According to the website, degrees — or as the website lists them, “degres,” one of several misspelled words on the site — range from $3,000 for a bachelor’s degree, to $3,600 hundred for a master’s degree and $4,200 for a doctorate.
    The FBI says the money flows from students to a company called Administrative Inc., which lists 3623 Canal St. as its official address. The building used to house the O’Keefe and O’Keefe law firm as well as Citywide Mortgage, the company at the center of the scandal that sent Michael O’Keefe Jr. to prison.
    WWL went to the building to find Administrative Inc., but found no evidence of any of their businesses, only stacked up desks and file cabinets from the O’Keefe law firm, and nothing that speaks to Administrative Inc. or Columbus University.
    Despite multiple e-mails and calls for a response, Eyewitness News did not hear back from any Columbus representatives.
    Using an alias, a reporter applied to Columbus University for next semester, leaving a phone message, and applying online.
    There was this response: “While I thank you for your interest, the university is not accepting new students at this time.” It was signed by Shannon O’Brien, faculty adviser for Columbus University.
    Again, the FBI says O’Brien is not only the adviser, she’s the faculty.

  4. Grampa Ray Says:

    Hmmmm. That cup could be worth some money!

  5. Editor B Says:

    @Rick: That is a trip.

    @Ray: I have no idea where we got this thing. Maybe a thrift store?

  6. frog Says:

    That facade was originally in the CBD, It was a very old bank, something like the Dryads Savings Bank.

  7. rickngentilly Says:

    how did you get the “is’ fonts to lean forward as if tripping?

    allways on the lookout for a mac hint.

    if i ever get to meet you remind me to tell you about jr.’s flunky, …..

    who’s pal’s dad ran a “connected” bar in jefferson………..

    that i had one of my first beers (in a bar ) at the age of 14.

  8. Editor B Says:

    @Rick: Just a lil HTML.

    http://www.boogiejack.com/html/html-italics.html

    A limited set of tags are allowed in comments, but the system will filter out anything too fancy.

  9. Amy Says:

    “Additionally, Columbus University has no state accreditation from Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama, where it claims to operate, meaning the degrees are worthless.”

    wow. just like the RSD! And every single type 5 charter school! But in Louisiana, accreditation is so last century.

  10. rickngentilly Says:

    thanks for the hint and link.

    looking forward to playing with it.

    let me know if you ever need a cooking tip.

    ricktippie dat gnarlly old a stuck n a circle gmail dot c to the o to the m

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