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Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Pastor, wife arrested for mortgage fraud, drug trafficking, money laundering

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Posted on Tue, May. 19, 2009

Pastor, wife, firefighter accused in mortgage fraud scam


The mortgage fraud and money-laundering racket was a family affair, prosecutors say, led by a Miami Gardens pastor with support from his wife -- a mother of three -- and his brother, a Miami Fire Rescue captain.

An indictment unsealed Monday charged pastor Garry Souffrant, 33, wife Yvonne Souffrant, 33, and brother Gamaliel Souffrant, 43 -- all Broward County residents -- with conspiring to defraud banks and launder drug traffickers' profits to buy more than a dozen residential properties in South Florida and Georgia from 2002 to 2008.

The 59-count indictment also charged Garry Souffrant, pastor of God First Ministries in Miami Gardens and a former supervisor at Boca Raton Fire Rescue, with conspiring to possess and distribute cocaine.

Prosecutors say the family's total haul from the fraudulent activity was $7 million.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael ''Pat'' Sullivan said the alleged conspiracy grew out of a Northwest Miami-Dade cocaine organization headed by Ali Adam and Graylin Kelly, who have been convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Sullivan said all three defendants -- using a brokerage company called Progressive Real Estate of Broward as a front -- accepted large sums of cocaine profits from the drug dealers and their associates to buy homes and luxury cars, including a 2004 Rolls Royce Phantom.

According to the indictment, the defendants acted as straw buyers on behalf of the traffickers, allowing them to use their cocaine profits to purchase homes and lease automobiles while hiding the source of the dirty income.

In addition, the defendants allegedly diverted several million dollars in mortgage loan proceeds to continue to fund the scheme for their personal use -- including buying new homes in Davie and Pembroke Pines.

''They used drug money to obtain loans,'' Sullivan flatly declared at the defendants' bond hearing Monday.

He argued that Garry Souffrant should not be allowed any bond before trial, and that his wife, Yvonne, and brother, Gamaliel, should pay bail of $100,000 -- saying they were a danger to the community and flight risks.

Defense attorney Larry Handfield, representing Garry Souffrant and his wife, tried to downplay the alleged drug connection, arguing there was no direct evidence, only the words of convicted traffickers seeking lower sentences. The couple, arrested by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service last week, are scheduled to be arraigned Friday.

Attorney Herbert Walker III, representing Gamaliel Souffrant, made the same case and also entered a not-guilty plea for his client. Souffrant, who left Haiti for South Florida as a boy and attended public schools, is a lawful permanent resident. He was in New York for his son's graduation from Fordham University and returned over the weekend to surrender on Monday.

Magistrate Judge Ted E. Bandstra denied bond for Garry Souffrant, but allowed a $100,000 bail for his wife and a $50,000 bail for his brother.

A spokesman for Miami Fire Rescue said authorities informed the department of the charges against Souffrant on Monday. Fire Rescue Lt. Ignatius E. Carroll Jr. noted that the charges have ``nothing to do with his position as a fire captain.''

He also said that Souffrant would be placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

Two of his colleagues from Miami Fire Rescue showed up at the bond hearing to support Souffrant, a firefighter for 19 years who works at headquarters.

Assistant Fire Chief Allen Joyce described Souffrant as a dedicated worker responsible for buying supplies and other services for fire stations.

''I was glad that I was here to represent him as a great worker,'' Joyce said, declining comment about the charges.

If convicted, all of the defendants face up to five years in prison on the mortgage fraud conspiracy count; 20 years for the money laundering conspiracy; 20 years for mail fraud; and 10 years for receipt of stolen bank funds.

Garry Souffrant also faces up to life in prison on the drug conspiracy charge.

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