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Ohio Man Indicted For Swindling $300K From Churches, Businesses

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CHICAGO (CBS) – An Ohio man has been indicted for swindling more than $300,000 from several churches and small businesses, including three churches in Chicago.

Jamal E. Lawson, 42, was charged with three counts of wire fraud, according to federal prosecutors in Chicago.

Lawson, of Dayton, Ohio, will be arraigned at 10 a.m. on Jan. 12 before U.S. District Judge James Zagel.

According to the indictment returned on Wednesday, Lawson obtained $308,000 from 20 churches and 13 small businesses nationwide by promising to fund more than $500 million in mortgage loans.

Lawson allegedly used the money he obtained to pay for travel expenses, clothes, food and cars.

Prosecutors claim he offered to provide loans to pastors of 20 churches and owners of 13 small businesses through one of several companies. He allegedly advertised low-interest loans and, after receiving loan applications from his victims, advised them that his companies had approved loans ranging from $300,000 to $206 million.

The indictment alleges Lawson knew he couldn’t fund those loans and had not secured funding or closing dates from other lenders. He allegedly told borrowers that, before any loans would be distributed, they would have to pay advances ranging from $1,250 to $35,000 to obtain appraisals, loan documents, title reports and audited financial statements.

Lawson allegedly told borrowers that he would refund their application fees if they did not receive the loans, but he never intended to provide the actual loans.

In Chicago, he allegedly obtained $3,950 in fees from one unnamed church, promising a loan of $742,000. He got $4,000 from a second church to provide a loan of $1.5 million. A third church gave him $3,960 for a $3 million loan.

Lawson faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each wire fraud charge, plus restitution.