“Big Liberal” Gets 5 Years For Ripping Off Poor

Thomas MacMIllan PhotoAs he sent Morris Olmer to prison, a judge said the 83-year-old former New Haven lawmaker will be no threat to society when he gets out —assuming he lives that long.

Chief U.S. District Judge Alvin Thompson acknowledged Olmer’s mortality Monday morning as he sentenced the former alderman and state legislator to five years in prison for his role in a 15-member mortgage fraud conspiracy.

Olmer (pictured outside the courthouse Monday) was convicted in April of his role in the conspiracy, which affected 29 properties in New Haven, New London, and elsewhere, leaving blighted homes in its wake.

Monday’s was Olmer’s second sentencing hearing in six days. The judge held over a hearing from Wednesday after he had difficulty reconciling the remorseless white-collar fraudster he’d seen during the trial with the contrite former public servant Olmer presented himself as at the sentencing hearing.

On Monday, Olmer had a second chance to express remorse and ask for a merciful sentence.

He stood up to speak in the second-floor federal courtroom in Hartford at shortly past 10 a.m. He wore pleated khakis, a lavender shirt and checkered tie. A folded newspaper crossword puzzle stuck out of the right pocket of his blue blazer.

“I know that I did wrong,” Olmer said. “Worse, I knew that I was doing wrong while I was doing it.”

Olmer said he was suspicious when “young people” started coming into his office to have him act as a notary on closings. It was clear they had no intention of living in the homes.

Those “young people” were “straw buyers,” conspirators who were paid to apply for and receive fraudulently inflated mortgages for homes they couldn’t pay for. The straw buyers would accept mortgage money from the government, then purchase the home for the actual, lesser, price, funnel the difference to the conspiracy, and abandon the home to foreclosure.

“I knew that they were lying and I should have done something about it,” Olmer said. He said he wishes he’d spoken up “for me and for them.”

“Here I am a big liberal,” who had been trying to help people as a legislator, Olmer said, and when the opportunity to help someone directly appeared, he did nothing.

“If I had warned them, if I had told them, I could have stopped them and stopped myself,” Olmer said. 

“The humiliation and shame that I feel is horrible,” he said. “My children have to bear this humiliation, and I feel that more than anything.”

“I supposed it’s good that Mr. Olmer now wishes he’d done something to help people, but the fact is he didn’t,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Glover. “He makes it sound like they were doing it. He was doing it.”

Olmer had many previous opportunities to express remorse—when he was first questioned by federal agents, during the court case, during probation hearings—but did not take advantage of them, Glover said. “This is it for Mr. Olmer. He’s doing what he needs to do, or feels he needs to do.”

Weighing Life’s Approaching End

At 10:30 a.m. Monday, Thompson began delivery of his sentence, the purpose of which is fivefold, he said. A sentence must be just punishment; it must protect the public from further crimes, be an adequate deterrent to future crimes, promote respect for the law, and serve the goal of rehabilitation, Thompson said.

The judge said that last week he had had “serious concerns” about whether he needed to weigh the second and third purposes—protecting the public and deterring future crime—over the others.

“That’s why I wanted to give you more of a showing,” Thompson said.

“Your co-defendants had lots of people who came and spoke on their behalf.” He said he recognizes that many of the people who may have spoken on Olmer’s behalf are no longer living.

After hearing from Olmer, Thompson said, he is sufficiently assured that he does not need to put weight on the second and third purposes. “I think you’ve gotten the message.”

Thompson said he’s also taken into consideration the fact that Olmer is nearing the end of his life: “If you are able to survive the sentence, I don’t think you’ll be in any shape to commit anymore offenses.”

On the other hand, a number of factors point toward the imposition of a longer sentence, Thompson said. Olmer was trained as a lawyer and violated his bar oath, he “engaged in obstructive conduct” during the fraud investigation, and he was practicing law without a license. All together, those factors should add up to a sentence of between 87 and 108 months, Thompson said.

But mitigating factors of health and age mean “such a sentence would have a disproportionately hard impact on you,” Thompson said. He said he opted for a sentence that is “lesser” but “still significant.”

“I regret that that is my conclusion,” Thompson said. “It will be 60 months. Please stand.”

Sadie Will Be Missed

Thompson sentenced Olmer to five years in prison on each of the 13 counts against him, to be served concurrently, followed by three years of supervised release. Thompson did not impose a fine, citing Olmer’s inability to pay. A restitution payment will be determined at an October hearing. Olmer will begin serving his sentence in November.

“Thank you, your honor,” Olmer said. “Thank you for your consideration.”

“I think the judge really gave me an opportunity to explain myself,” Olmer said later, outside the courthouse. “I think it was a fair sentence.”

Olmer said most of all he’s going to miss his two-and-a-half-year-old miniature Doberman, Sadie.

Olmer was asked about the fact that his court statements did not include the phrase “I’m sorry.”

“I’ve tried to say I’m sorry,” Olmer responded. “Of course I’m sorry this occurred.”

Previous coverage of this case:

White-Collar Criminals Sent To Slammer
Judge Baffled By Two Morris Olmers
Feds Will Retry Avigdor
4 Convicted In Fraud Scam; Mistrial For Rabbi
Jury Can’t Agree In Scam Trial
Avigdor’s Final Plea: Follow The Money
Claire: The Rabbi Is Kosher
Wednesday The Rabbi Took The Stand
Straw Buyer Lured Into A Wild Ride
After Big Fish Plead, Smaller Fry Point Fingers
Slum-Photo Doctor Makes A Call
What Happened At Goodfellas Didn’t Stay At Goodfellas
Fraud Trial Opens With Oz-Like Yarn
“Partying” MySpacer Lined Up Scam Homebuyers
“Straw Buyer” Pleads Guilty
Neighbors, Taxpayers Left With The Tab
FBI Arrests Police Commissioner, Slumlord, Rabbi
One Last Gambit Falls Short
Was He In “Custody”?
Is Slum Landlord Helping The FBI?
Feds Snag Poverty Landlord
Police Commissioner Pleads

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posted by: Cedarhillresident on September 26, 2011  4:11pm

Rob the poor to give to the rich.

This makes me sick…remember I had a few houses that did this type of scam in my area!!! Fudger! In fact one from this group did a few. The problem is, it made it appear that the value of the property’s in this area were worth FAR more than they are. I had a list of them from the 2006 assessment year. All bought and foreclosed on for a ridiculous rate. So this WHOLE community got the shaft and was OVER assessed and got stuck paying tax rates based on these scammers BS. It is not just the bank that these people hurt. I am hoping it levels out right with the new assessments because I have kept track of the 30,ooo property sales that are happening here.

posted by: JJ on September 26, 2011  7:26pm

Many a liberal has forgotten the true meaning of the word. My old landlord considered himself a liberal—but he was a slumlord and inconsiderate in his business dealings. He is only in his early 60’s. By his 80’s, who knows what he will be capable of while remaining convinced he’s a “liberal”.

There, but for the grace of god, go I, I suppose.

I wish Mr. Olmer to keep positive and take on healthy habits while in prison. Don’t continue the scamming, just rekindle the compassion and “liberalism” (with which we all are born).

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 26, 2011  7:28pm

Like I said keep voting them in.

Money and corruption are ruining the land, crooked politicians betray the working man, pocketing the profits and treating us like sheep, and we’re tired of hearing promises that we know they’ll never keep.
Ray Davies.

posted by: watchdog on September 28, 2011  12:35pm

I bet he’s out in 2 years or less.

posted by: Paul on September 29, 2011  2:30pm

I’m sure if Mr. Olmer ran for office today he would win election since well, he’s a liberal and the sheep in this state just love them!  His crimes would be explained away like they always are for liberals that do bad.