A plea agreement in San Diego reveals a million-dollar bribery scheme involving employees at three large banks and bags of cash handed over at a car wash prosecutors claim was used to launder money, similar to that in the AMC show “Breaking Bad.”
Brothers Israel Hechter, 47, and Amir Hechter, 42, both of San Diego and a business associate, Jack Prober, 56, of La Jolla pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit bank bribery and tax evasion.
Israel and Amir’s father, Zeev Hechter, 68 of Aventura, FL. also admitted to the conspiracy. He owns a car wash where the conspirators “laundered” the bribes, prosecutors said.
The men face maximum penalties of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Under the plea agreement, the defendants admit $1 million in bribes were paid to bank insiders at J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, GMAC Mortgage, LLC, and National City Bank in exchange for Israel Hechter’s mortgage investment firm to win bids for mortgage loans sold on the secondary market.
Prosecutors claim bankers rigged the system by erasing or altering competitive bids.
Prober and Amir Hechter admitted paying the bankers by personal check to help the insiders avoid taxes on the illegal income.
The plea deal states that Zeev Hechter hand-delivered $330,000 in cash to a GMAC banker who is facing charges in the investigation.
GMAC Mortgage employee Robert Moreno, 42, of Tempe, AZ is accused of meeting Zeev Hechter on street corners in New York City and at the Florida car wash.
Federal prosecutors claim Moreno was handed a bag containing tens of thousands of dollars in cash each time they met.
The secondary mortgage market in the United States exceeds $10 trillion.
“Individuals and corrupt bank employees who attempt to tilt this playing field for their own advantage cannot be tolerated,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip L.B. Halpern said in court.
The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on January 5, 2015.
Moreno was arrested July 15 on suspicion of bank bribery. His case is still pending. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.