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N. Miami mayor arrested in $8M mortgage scheme

Lucie Tondreau surrenders to FBI, suspended by Gov. Scott amid charges

Erick Johnson | 5/22/2014, 9 a.m.
North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau

North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau turned herself in before being led away in handcuffs Tuesday after being charged with operating a mortgage fraud scheme.

Tondreau and three others were charged Monday with defrauding lenders out of $8 million in loans that were used to purchase 20 South Florida properties by using “straw buyers” in 2006, according to the indictment. The mayor is accused of using her radio program at the time to recruit alleged buyers for the fraudulent loans. If convicted, Tondreau faces 30 years in prison.

Tondreau was in Las Vegas when she was charged on Monday.

On the Piman Bouk radio show, informally known as the CNN of Haitian radio, host Nelson Voltaire called on Haitians in South Florida to descend upon the federal courthouse downtown to show support for Tondreau during her court appearance and bond hearing Tuesday afternoon.

According to the federal indictment, Tondreau and co-host Karl Oreste, 56, of Miramar, teamed up on several radio programs that advertised his brokerage company, KMC Mortgage. They’re accused of recruiting and paying some of those listeners and others to pose as borrowers to buy South Florida real estate, prosecutors said. Augustin, a KMC Mortgage employee, also allegedly recruited straw borrowers.

They all face charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud and actual wire under the indictment that was unsealed Monday afternoon.

Another defendant Oreste made a first appearance Monday in Miami federal court. Magistrate Judge John O’Sullivan granted him a release on a $50,000 bond.

Tondreau’s defense attorney, Ben Kuehne said his client called him Monday after family members notified her that FBI agents had come to her North Miami home with an arrest warrant.

Kuehne said his client was out of town on official city business. Kuehne said he is working to surrender Tondreau voluntarily.

Federal agents search Tondreau’s home Monday morning in Miami while she was 2,500 miles away attending RECon, the International Council of Shopping Centers’ global real estate convention, in Las Vegas.

City officials said Tondreau and Lesly Prudent, coordinator of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, are at the conference to attract businesses to North Miami

Tondreau did not immediately respond to voicemail or texts sent to her cellphone.

Tondreau is the city’s first Haitian-American female mayor. She defeated Kevin Burns last June with nearly 60 percent of the vote, in a racially-charged election in a city with a growing Haitian and Black population.

Tondreau is also an experienced public relations and political consultant. She recently served as the outreach specialist for the Biscayne Landing project through her company Tondreau and Associates.

Tondreau is also a regular guest on Haitian targeted programs on WLQY 1320 AM and Radio Mega 1700 AM.

State prosecutors are also investigating Tondreau for allegedly tying online absentee-ballot requests made in bulk to her campaign office. Florida law prohibits ballot requests to come from anyone other than voters themselves or their family. Tondreau has denied any wrongdoing.

As mayor, Tondreau is also involved in a bitter legal battle with the Museum of Contemporary of Art which is suing to move to the Bass Museum on Miami Beach after growing frustrated with North Miami officials over lack of support.