Snyder's guilty plea upheld
Judge rules against mortgage scammer who victimized 300 in Lancaster County Snyder's guilty plea upheld BY TIM MEKEEL, Business Editor
Admitted mortgage scammer Wesley A. Snyder will not be allowed to back out of his guilty plea, a federal judge ruled Friday.
U.S. District Chief Judge Yvette Kane denied Snyder's request to throw out his guilty plea and go to trial for mail fraud.
Snyder "has offered nothing more than his bare allegations that if his attorneys had done more, he would not have pleaded guilty," said Kane.
Snyder, 76, of Oley, Berks County, is in federal prison in Loretto, Cambria County, near Johnstown.
The collapse of Snyder's mortgage-broker business six years ago threw hundreds of borrowers into chaos.
They were shocked to learn Snyder had stolen their mortgage payments, sticking them with immense debts instead.
In November 2007, Snyder admitting running a mortgage scam that tricked 800 victims -- including 300 Lancaster County residents.
The victims lost more than $29 million.
Based on that admission, Kane sentenced the businessman in July 2008 to 12 years behind bars.
Snyder began this latest attempt to sidestep his sentence in October 2011.
He argued that his attorneys were ineffective because they failed to investigate potential defenses.
They also failed to explain the elements of the mail fraud charge he ultimately admitted, said Snyder.
Snyder added that his main attorney, the late Emmanuel Dimitriou, pressured him into the admission.
Dimitriou threatened to quit if Snyder didn't plead guilty, according to Snyder.
The attorney also warned him that he could get an 800-year sentence if he went to trial, said Snyder.
But Kane, in her ruling, noted that when Snyder appeared in her Harrisburg courtroom to plead guilty, she read all the charges to him.
She also explained the consequences of a guilty plea to him.
During that hearing, Snyder told the judge that nobody had coerced him into pleading, Kane said.
Snyder also said that he had enough time to discuss the charge with his attorney and that he was satisfied with his attorney.
Kane pointed out that for a defendant to argue that his attorney was ineffective, the defendant must show that his fate would have been different with a good attorney.
However, Kane observed that prosecutors had "voluminous records" documenting the fraud.
Furthermore, Snyder had admitted to prosecutors that he'd been sending false statements to customers and lying to them for years.
"An attorney's duty to investigate is necessarily altered in a situation where his or her client admits fault," said the judge in her 11-page ruling.
Kane also discarded Snyder's claim that when he pleaded guilty, he did not grasp that the fraud charge meant he intentionally deceived his customers.
Snyder's claim "flies in the face of common sense, as well as the record in this case," said Kane.
Since Snyder admitted lying to his customers, "such an admission clearly indicates an intent to defraud customers," she said.
Kane added that the name of the charge itself -- fraud -- "signals an intentional deception or misrepresentation."
"A sophisticated criminal defendant such as (Snyder) would understand that he was entering a plea of guilty to a crime that involved an element of intent where the (charging document) contained words such as 'Ponzi scheme,' 'scheme to defraud' and 'false and fraudulent pretenses.' "
Initially, Snyder sought to be freed while his motion wound through the legal system, but Kane ruled in March 2012 that Snyder would stay behind bars as the motion got decided.
Snyder's bid to get his guilty plea thrown out was his second try at minimizing the consequences of his plea.
His first attempt came just nine days after his sentencing, when he asked the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to lighten his sentence, arguing that Kane ignored his age, health and other mitigating factors.
In July 2010, the 3rd Circuit refused.