An expert witness who Baltimore state attorney Marilyn Mosby hired to help defend her in her upcoming trial for perjury and mortgage fraud had previously called her actions “pretty stupid.”
Mosby’s attorneys plan to call Eric Forster, a California-based professional mortgage fraud witness, to provide insight into the two-term Democrats’ purchase of two Florida homes in 2020, according to documents filed by the court. The defense expects him to testify that lenders should have looked more carefully at Mosby’s mortgage applications.
Federal prosecutors are seeking to block Forster and another witness, Marcia Wagner, from testifying. Prosecutors are also asking the defense to provide more information about Mosby’s third witness, forensic accountant Jerome Schmitt.
The government is paying Mosby’s witnesses, at least in part, after a judge found she probably couldn’t pay them. The testimony of an expert witness can cost upwards of $10,000. His trial is scheduled for September 19.
In return, Mosby’s defense team, led by attorney A. Scott Bolden, filed motions to block the government from calling its witnesses: an FBI accountant and an IRS agent who were supposed to talk about his finance.
Bolden, in court filings, asks U.S. District Court Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby to bar those witnesses because Bolden claims prosecutors failed to properly disclose their expert testimony.
The city’s attorney-elect is charged with two counts of perjury and two counts of misrepresenting loan applications. Publicly available documents suggest Mosby deceived her lenders about her finances and plans for two Florida homes she bought — an eight-bedroom rental near Disney World and a condo on the Gulf Coast. The reason people do this, according to several experts, is to get more favorable loan terms.
In a March interview with The Baltimore Sun, Forster discussed Mosby’s indictment at length, saying his alleged scheme to save on interest and down payments was commonplace. Forster did not respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon.
“I didn’t see anything very clever from him,” he said in March. “Actually, I’ve seen a number of pretty stupid things. But the thing is, I’ve seen people do it all the time.
Prosecutors, in court filings, said Forster’s proposed testimony would be too technical and “any probative value it may have is outweighed by the risk that it will confuse the jury and waste their time.” .
When Mosby bought the home near Disney World, she signed a document promising she wouldn’t hire a management company or rent it out for at least a year, according to publicly available mortgage filings. Mortgages for investment homes are generally more expensive, with banks issuing higher interest rates and requiring a 20% down payment compared to the 10% required for second homes.
However, prosecutors say a week before the closing, Mosby signed a contract with a management company, giving him control over the rental of the house, a breach of his mortgage terms.
“When you sign a loan application, just above your signature, there is this verbiage that you certify that all of the above is true and correct and that bad things can happen to you if you defraud the lender,” said said Foster. “Obviously she knew it.”
Many people who lie about a vacation home that’s an investment property aren’t caught because federal prosecutors can’t track the number of mortgage fraud complaints sent to them, Forster said.
“If it was Joe Schmo, there wouldn’t have been an indictment here,” Forster said of the vacation home deal.
Mosby and her attorneys previously sought to have the indictment against her dismissed on the grounds of prosecutorial vindictiveness. They argued that the charges, which they claimed were unique, were solely the product of federal prosecutors’ prejudice for Mosby and his politics as state’s attorney. The government has vehemently denied these allegations; Griggsby denied the defense request, saying it was problematic.
In addition to Mosby’s alleged indiscretions related to the so-called ‘second home jumper,’ federal prosecutors say she lied about her debts on the mortgage application for the Kissimmee home, hence the need of the IRS officer and the FBI accountant at trial.
At the time of her application, Mosby had a $45,000 federal tax lien against her and her husband. Marilyn Mosby claimed she was unaware of the privilege because her husband, Baltimore Democratic City Council Speaker Nick Mosby, was handling their taxes.
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Mosby’s defense team offers Wagner, an employee pension lawyer, to be an expert on the CARES Act and Mosby’s pension withdrawals. The government wants her excluded because the presiding judge is the only person supposed to tell jurors how to apply the law.
Mosby used the money she withdrew from her city retirement account, about $90,000, to buy the homes in Florida, the indictment alleges. Under the CARES Act, the first pandemic relief bill, Congress allowed government employees to make early withdrawals from their retirement accounts if they claimed – under penalty of perjury – that if they had suffered negative financial consequences as a result of the coronavirus or if a business they owned lost money.
Prosecutors say Mosby suffered no such financial hardship in 2020 when she made the withdrawals, pointing out that her salary actually increased from the previous year.
Mosby’s defense did not provide a concrete explanation for the withdrawals and filed a motion seeking to block prosecutors from telling a jury how Mosby spent the money she withdrew from her retirement account.
The decision to spend the money in deposits on vacation homes is irrelevant to the case, Bolden wrote, and would only serve to paint Mosby in a bad light for jurors.
Griggsby is expected to rule on all motions in Mosby’s trial on September 14.
Baltimore Sun reporter Giacomo Bologna contributed to this article.