Wednesday, May 22, 2013

SC Appeals Court Reinstates Criminal Charges Against Sale Leaseback Peddler; Continuing To Prosecute Scammer After Earlier Contempt Convictions In Same Case Not Double Jeopardy

In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, The Sun News reports:

  • Appeals court orders new trial for man in scam that targeted homeowners facing foreclosure

    Robert Steve Jolly, who operated an illegal foreclosure rescue scam through his Socastee-based Jolly & Associates, will face another trial on charges that he obtained clients’ property under false pretenses, the S.C. Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday.

    The court reversed an earlier ruling by Judge Benjamin Culbertson, who in 2011 dismissed two of five felony charges that Jolly obtained property under false pretenses. Culbertson said in his ruling that prosecuting Jolly on the two charges would amount to double jeopardy because Jolly previously had been found guilty of contempt of court related to foreclosure actions in those two cases.

    The appeals court said the contempt charges were separate and different from the fraud charges, even though all of the charges stemmed from the same activity, clearing the way for another trial.(1)

    Jolly, 64, was convicted during a jury trial of the other three charges of obtaining property under false pretenses. He is serving a 10-year prison sentence at MacDougall Correctional Institution in Ridgeville. The appeals court dismissed Jolly’s appeal of those convictions earlier this year.

    No new trial date has been scheduled for the two felony charges Jolly still faces.

    Court documents show Jolly targeted home owners who were in danger of defaulting on their mortgages, saying he could save their homes if they would sign the properties over to him through a quit-claim deed. Jolly told the home owners that he would pay off their mortgages once they transferred the property. He also told the home owners to submit future mortgage payments to him instead of the original mortgage holder.

    Jolly never paid the mortgages and kept the money for himself, causing foreclosure lawsuits to be filed against at least 45 of his clients. Once the properties were in foreclosure, Jolly filed multiple frivolous actions in the cases to stall the lawsuits, according to court documents. Jolly’s filings created such a backlog of cases that Judge Michael Baxley was assigned to clear them.

    Baxley eventually voided all of the quit-claim deeds Jolly had filed and issued an order holding Jolly in criminal contempt of court. In his order, Baxley said Jolly’s actions through court filings and during hearings exhibited disrespect for the court and hampered witnesses and “were calculated to obstruct, degrade and undermine the administration of justice.” Jolly was sentenced to six months in jail on the contempt charge.
For the story, see Appeals court orders new trial for Myrtle Beach area man convicted in foreclosure rescue scam.

For the ruling, see State v. Jolly, No. 2011-190688 (SC App. May 8, 2013).

(1) A short excerpt from the court's ruling:
  • The State argues the trial court erred in dismissing two indictments for obtaining property by false pretenses based on double jeopardy because the elements of obtaining property by false pretenses were distinctly different from the elements of criminal contempt and each required a proof of fact the other did not. We agree.
  • "A defendant may be severally indicted and punished for separate offenses without being placed in double jeopardy where a single act consists of two distinct offenses." Brandt, 393 S.C. at 538, 713 S.E.2d at 597 (internal quotation marks omitted).

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