Radio host and self-styled “People’s Lawyer” convicted of mortgage fraud
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He styled himself “The People’s Attorney” and once claimed that 3 million listeners tuned in to hear his brand of black empowerment on his nationally-syndicated radio show.
But former Soul 106.3 personality Warren Ballentine is now a convicted fraudster.
A federal jury took less than an hour Friday morning to find Ballentine, 43, guilty on six counts connected to a mortgage scam that bilked lenders out of $10 million.
Ballentine hung his head, frowned and mouthed the word “Man” as the verdicts that could see him jailed for as long as 30 years were announced by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly.
It marked a harsh comedown for the South Side-raised graduate of Chicago State University, who on the eve of his trial had told his nearly 40,000 followers on Facebook that he was looking forward to what he called “Vindication week.”
Even before his indictment last year, Ballentine had hinted at underhand government tactics — posting links to stories about Cointelpro, the widely-criticized 20th-century FBI program to discredit domestic political movements, including black rights groups.
By contrast, the evidence presented against him during a week-long trial was dry, simple and damning enough to result in an unusually swift guilty verdict.
It showed that Ballentine and his fellow schemers used straw buyers to secure mortgages on 28 properties they never intended to live in.
In some cases, he attended closings for the same phony purchasers at two different properties within three days of each other, each time telling the straw buyers to lie on their mortgage forms, evidence showed.
Ballentine uses the handle @truthfighter1 on twitter, but during closing arguments on Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Boutros told jurors “Warren Ballentine is not on trial because he’s a truth fighter — he’s on trial because he fought against the truth.”
Loan applications Ballentine submitted were “shot through with lies,” Boutros said.
The fraudulent applications helped him and his co-conspirators buy homes in Chicago and suburbs including Monee, Woodridge, Mokena, Country Club Hills, Richton Park, and Markham between 2004 and 2006.
Ballentine’s lawyer Lewis Myers unsuccessfully argued that Ballentine merely acted as an attorney at closings, and that Ballentine was not involved in any “hanky-panky.”
Co-defendants who pleaded guilty and testified against Ballentine in return for reduced sentences got “millions” while Ballentine himself only “went home to his wife with $350″ after each closing, Myers said.
Speaking after the verdict, he said Ballentine, who is suffering from depression and has three children, would appeal.
Ballentine, whose show was also carried on WVON radio before his indictment, lives in and broadcasted from Durham, N.C., but grew up in Chicago and previously lived in south suburban Country Club Hills, where he maintained a law office. His radio show was broadcast online after he was dropped from syndication last year.
He faces up to 30 years behind bars on each of 6 counts and a $6 million fine, plus restitution of nearly $10 million when he is sentenced in January.