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DeSoto County developer Chuck Roberts sentenced to 10 days in federal prison for bank fraud
[July 18, 2013]

DeSoto County developer Chuck Roberts sentenced to 10 days in federal prison for bank fraud

Jul 18, 2013 (The Commercial Appeal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- DeSoto County developer Chuck Roberts will serve 10 days in a federal prison in September for his role in a bank fraud scheme involving a Southaven subdivision his company was planning to build.

Roberts, 46, said during Thursday's sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court here that his actions were not indicative of who he is.

"My criminal act caused harm to a lot of people, and this is not who I am and not the way I was raised or lived my life," said Roberts, more popularly known as the public address announcer for University of Memphis basketball games before resigning. "I know there are serious consequences for my actions, and I ask you to have mercy and sympathy. I fully accept my responsibility." Roberts admitted to submitting fake documents to an area bank and receiving about $489,000 from a loan for work that was never done. He pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud earlier this year.

Roberts admitted to submitting the fake documents and making false statements to Citizens National Bank to get money from a $5 million loan that his development company, RH Holdings, had taken out to develop Cherry Hill subdivision in Southaven, which was never built.

On several occasions in 2008, Roberts admitted, he went to the bank branch in Olive Branch and submitted fraudulent invoices, claiming that the invoices were from Neel-Schaffer, the engineering firm hired by his company to do work at the subdivision.

Prosecutors said Roberts submitted 17 fake invoices totaling about $489,000 to the bank for what he and his business partner, Jamie Harris, claimed were for unforeseen drainage work at the subdivision. The bank would then cut checks, which were drawn against the loan, and make them payable to RH Holdings for the work that was never done on the subdivision site. It was unclear how much of the loan, beyond the $489,000 in fraudulent funds, was used.

To date, the only thing constructed on the 49-acre subdivision site, east of Swinnea and south of Rasco Road, is a controversial Southaven fire station that the city built through an unusual no-bid contract negotiated by the city's former mayor, Greg Davis, a former close friend of Roberts.

Roberts' attorney, Cliff Johnson, told the court Thursday that his client made a "bad decision" but that his actions of falsifying documents and lying to the bank were an "anomaly" to his character as a family man, community leader and hard worker in DeSoto County.

"Chuck is not perfect, but he got in over his head in business and he panicked when the real estate market did not rebound, so he could repay the bank the money. That does not excuse what he did, but he has been very cooperative with the government.'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Mims agreed that Roberts has cooperated with prosecutors by "providing substantial assistance in other matters." U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills told Roberts that he was giving him as little time in prison as possible for the sake of his children, and also because he has no prior criminal record and has cooperated with the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office.

"You have a big responsibility with four children, and I am more concerned about the children than about you," Mills told Roberts.

In addition to the 10 days that he will start serving on Sept. 16 at an undisclosed location, Roberts will be under house arrest for nine months and must report to a probation officer for four years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $45,000 in restitution to Citizens National Bank. His father has already repaid some $400,000 to the bank for him.

The bank fraud charge was punishable by a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison or a minimum of five years supervised release. The charge also carries a $1 million fine. The judge said that Roberts has no way to repay the fine, but he did order him to pay a one-time $100 special assessment fee to the court.

His parents, wife and several other friends were in court Thursday. His wife cried as the judge read Roberts' sentence.

Roberts has been a developer and real estate broker for 16 years in Southaven and DeSoto County.

Last year, the Mississippi Real Estate Commission suspended his broker's license for a year after the commission found he violated state real estate laws during a land deal with the city of Southaven. This year, the state agency opened another investigation into Roberts after he pleaded guilty to bank fraud. MREC officials said this week they were awaiting the outcome of his sentencing hearing to finalize its investigation into Roberts' fraud charges involving the subdivision.

Roberts' former business partner in RH Holdings, Jamie Harris, has entered a not guilty plea to the bank fraud charges to which Roberts has admitted. A Sept. 9 court date has been set for Harris in Aberdeen, Miss.

___ (c)2013 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.) Visit The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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