Former Manalapan Mayor Found Guilty on Federal Fraud Charges
Former Manalapan Mayor Andrew Lucas was found guilty following a two-week federal fraud trial. He was convicted Thursday of falsifying documents and setting up a sham company to gain a loan and investment money, to buy a local farm in 2009 that earned him over a million dollars in farmland preservation funds.
According to a blog by the Associated Press, "prosecutors said Lucas lied on a loan application and convinced a client of his investment company to invest $250,000 in a company that didn't exist until Lucas formed it three days later. He also used a relative's name and social security number to set up that company."
"He sincerely still believes he is innocent. He never meant to defraud," Mario F. Gallucci, Lucas' attorney, told the Asbury Park Press. "All he wanted to do was farm."
"Prosecutors said the 37-year-old lied on the application by claiming that the loan would be repaid using the sale of development rights through the state Farmland Preservation Program. That program pays farm owners who want to keep farming their land rather than sell to developers. He also claimed to have more than $200,000 in the bank."
"To form the company, Lucas listed the name of a relative as the company's only member, without the relative's knowledge or authorization. Lucas used the $250,000 from the investment client as a down payment for the farm purchase, according to the indictment."
According to the AP report and a press release from the U.S. Attorney District of New Jersey Office, "Lucas was found guilty of charges including wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, obstruction and making false statements to the IRS. Loan application fraud carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years and a $1 million fine."
"He was also charged with obstructing a federal investigation last year for allegedly responding to a subpoena by forging his relative's name on a letter meant to hide the fact the money was fraudulently obtained."
"He remains free on $500,000 bond until his Jan. 20 sentencing."