TAMPA — Gloria Chaignet Cartwright was just trying to put her son through college.
Her plan was to buy a home through Bradenton’s Coast Bank and “flip” it — resell it as soon as she could for a profit — to raise money to pay college expenses.
However, it didn’t quite happen that way and Monday, the pharmaceutical industry employee found herself in U.S. District Court testifying in connection with a case featuring former Coast Bank executive Philip Coon. He has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering and faces a prison term and a $250,000 fine.
Cartwright’s testimony in an evidentiary hearing was meant to bolster her claim and that of others for $1.5 million in restitution in the case.
She was among a handful of borrowers with similar cases that Sarasota attorney Alan Tannenbaum called to the stand. Tannenbaum represents 152 Coast Bank borrowers and other attorneys represent another 20 or 30, he said.
Cartwright told the court she thought the investment opportunity could help put her oldest son through college.
She was told others had pocketed up to $95,000 in similar transactions, and that “it seemed an air-tight deal to me,” she testified.
She thought the builder, Construction Compliance, Inc., would pay all closing costs and interest on the loan for the North Port home while construction was underway, she said.
But when the loan papers arrived with what seemed like conflicting terms, she could not get satisfactory answers to her questions from the bank, the builder or a third party in the deal, American Mortgage Link of Tampa, she said.
Cartwright had misgivings but was told if she did not sign, she would still be liable for previous commitments. So she signed “out of fear,” she testified.
The builder defaulted before any construction could begin and she was left with a undeveloped lot of little value, she said.
“I was on the hook for over $80,000 for an empty lot,” she said.
She settled with the company that took over Coast Bank, First Bank, but was not told that ex-bank executive Coon and John Miller, of American Mortgage Link, had conspired to add an extra 1 percent fee to the loan cost. The men expected to pocket the money.
She is seeking restitution in the amount of $2,254.50, arguing she was victimized twice because the community bank she had trusted did not protect her interests.
“I believe I’m due this money because my loan was impacted by an extra point I knew nothing about,” she testified.
Also testifying was Michael P. Wood, of Inverness, who sought restitution in connection with two loans amounting to $4,113; Tim Walsh, of Largo, seeking $2,430; and Gary Mousseau, of Sarasota, seeking $1,995.
The judge overseeing the evidentiary hearing will decide if Coast Bank borrowers suffered financial harm as a result of the crime and whether they deserve restitution. More homeowners are expected to testify Dec. 28.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.