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Mobtown Beat

Unequal Terms

Accused Dealer Shawn Green's Mother Goes to Prison; White Lady Lawyer Goes Free

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
MAN ON THE RUN: Fugitive Shawn Green's mother was sentenced to two years in prison for her part in a money-laundering scheme.

Download official transcripts of Donegan's and Lincoln's hearings

By Jeffrey Anderson | Posted 5/7/2008

The Rev. Michael McFadden was stunned and hurting as he led an impromptu prayer session in the hallway outside the courtroom of U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz on April 25.

"Lord, we don't understand the things that have happened here today," intoned the spiritual leader of the College Park Church of Christ, in response to the two-year prison sentence Motz had just handed to 60-year-old single mother Yolanda Crawley.

Crawley pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud in misrepresenting her income to obtain $2 million in luxury-home mortgages on behalf of her son, fugitive Shawn Green. Green is indicted for drug trafficking and money laundering and remains at large ("Flight Connections," Mobtown Beat, March 12).

For the second day in a row, anger, denial, and cries of inequality resulted from the widely varying sentences given to Crawley and her co-defendants on the white-collar end of Green's alleged drug and money-laundering conspiracy.

On April 24, Motz had handed down a 15-month sentence to David Lincoln, a 38-year-old mortgage broker who pleaded guilty last year in the same home-loan scam. His family was seething over his sentence because, on March 18, attorney Rachel Donegan, who is white and who also pleaded guilty to wire fraud in the case in 2007, got probation for a similar role in preparing bogus mortgage applications for Crawley to sign ("One Angry Man," Mobtown Beat, March 26).

"The judge is wrong and a racist," said Crawley's family friend Herbert Malone, of Baltimore, standing in the hallway after she was sentenced on April 25. "He let the white girl off and put time on two black people."

"Only in America," chimed Louise Wylie, also a close friend of Crawley.

Judge Motz did not return a call for comment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office defended the sentences, insisting the prosecution's recommendations to the judge were consistent with federal guidelines and individually negotiated plea agreements, which the office cannot discuss.

The case began with an investigation of Shawn Green, whom authorities have suspected of large-scale cocaine and heroin trafficking since the early 1990s, according to law-enforcement documents. In 2006, investigators stopped Green and two other men in a car with close to $1 million in cash. Soon they also discovered that Green was using real estate and a recording business to launder drug money. The investigation led to Crawley, Lincoln, and Donegan, who all copped to wire fraud.

The scheme was complex: Lincoln fabricated income figures to accompany Crawley's loan applications; Donegan drew up the papers and filed them with lenders; Crawley signed the applications. Green's drug money was used to buy pricey real estate in Florida, Georgia, and Maryland. With help from Donegan and Lincoln, Crawley then refinanced the luxury homes, paid off new mortgages with her son's drug money, and repeated the cycle.

All three deny knowing for sure that Green's money was dirty.

Throughout the recent sentencing hearings Green, who fled last year after being indicted, has loomed as the elephant in the room. Just as troubling as his disappearance is the mess he left in his wake: a mother on the hook for aiding her son in his drug-related crimes, and two white-collar accomplices pointing fingers at one another.

Add to the mix an inconsistent federal prosecutor, a duped and angry judge, and a community in denial, and the Green conspiracy goes beyond establishing a nexus between drugs and white-collar fraud in Baltimore: It shows the difficulty the public and the justice system have in confronting the city's shadow economy in a rational, honest, and fair manner.

"Ms. Crawley is a good woman who made a mistake," attorney Jon Norris said of Crawley, who signed 10 home-loan applications that grossly overstated her income and were used to buy property with Green's alleged cocaine and heroin proceeds. "She didn't do it for greed; she did it for love of her son."

"Ms. Crawley did not do the wrong thing for the right reasons," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kwame Manley snapped back, as he described palatial estates, gated condominiums, and beachfront property purchased in the name of Yolanda Crawley.

"I don't know whether to be impressed or angry about the crowd assembled today," Motz said of Crawley's 40 or so supporters who appeared in court on April 25. "I'm concerned these people are not able to see the facts."

Motz then asked: "Where did the money" for the houses "come from?"

"Drugs," Manley replied.

"Whose communities are destroyed by those drugs?" the judge inquired.

"Everyone's," Manley said.

In all, Green is indicted for laundering $4 million in drug proceeds through real estate, luxury vehicles, and credit card accounts. Now his mother and David Lincoln are going to serve prison time. Yet Rachel Donegan, 38, who softened Motz with a tale of woe, is free on probation.

On March 18, at Donegan's sentencing, Motz heard little about her role in the conspiracy. Instead, with no objection from the prosecutor, Donegan's lawyer claimed his client was led astray by Lincoln in a personal relationship that she was desperate to save. Defense attorney Gregg Bernstein further contended that Donegan was instrumental to the health and well-being of her troubled niece, and argued she should not go to prison. Calling her a "minor participant," Motz sentenced Donegan to three years probation.

On March 20, Motz, perhaps sensing he had the wool pulled over his eyes at the Donegan hearing, blew his stack when Manley asked for just 10 months prison time for Lincoln. "I don't understand why Mr. Lincoln isn't here as a co-conspirator . . . on the white-collar end of a major drug operation," the judge said, before delaying the hearing. "The perspective I'm bringing today is different from what I think you all thought coming in."

At Lincoln's resentencing, on April 24, his attorney William Purpura presented e-mails and other evidence to show that Donegan was equally involved in the wire-fraud scheme and thus equally culpable as Lincoln. In a letter to the court Purpura also argued that Lincoln cooperated with law enforcement immediately and "was instrumental in Rachel Donegan's accepting responsibility." This time, however, the prosecutor was tough. Manley asked for 16 months prison time for Lincoln--the maximum under sentencing guidelines and the plea agreement.

"I remain concerned about Mr. Green's source of income and whether Mr. Lincoln was willingly blind to it," Motz said before handing down a 15-month sentence and criticizing Lincoln for not accepting responsibility for his crimes. "Whether I should have given Donegan more time is something others can debate," the judge said. "I'm comfortable with it."

Afterward, Lincoln's family members were shell-shocked. Some accused Donegan's lawyer of lying about a personal relationship between Donegan and Lincoln that no longer existed. Lincoln's live-in girlfriend, Jessica Pineda, was on hand to attest to that. Documents filed with the court showed Pineda and Lincoln lived together with Pineda's daughter from 2002 to 2005 at an address also used by Guilford Title and Escrow, a company established by Donegan. "Was the court misled?" Pineda was asked. "Definitely," she said.

"Why are we talking about drugs when the charge is wire fraud?" Lincoln's father complained. "My son knew nothing about drugs. They allowed [Donegan] to walk. There were lies."

The next day, at Crawley's hearing, supporters similarly refused to accept that their loved one had been a party to a drug money-laundering operation.

The well-dressed, older crowd was anxious from the start, as Motz declared his intent to impose a stiff sentence. The judge became upset when Crawley's lawyer tried to retract these statements Crawley made to investigators, on March 26, 2007: that she had been "suspicious that [her son] was engaged in drug activity because she had never seen an office or desk for him" at his place of business; and that she did not "observe any legitimate music business" at her son's Reservoir Hill recording studio in an apartment building that the government later seized.

Unlike at the Donegan hearing, Manley was aggressive. He said Crawley's retractions were "beyond ludicrous." He also harped on the fact that Green gave his mother a "special phone" for talking only to him. "Who gives their mother a special phone?" Manley said. "Drug dealers do. She knows this is a sign of illegal activity."

Crawley's lawyer, Jon Norris, submitted written testimonials of good character and argued to the judge that his client "is a mother who loves her son." Norris argued that Crawley neither devised the money-laundering scheme nor facilitated it.

Rather, Norris argued, Crawley lent her good name and signature to documents that misstated her income, which she admits was wrong. Norris then urged the judge not to punish Crawley for the crimes of her son. "I understand the court's and the prosecution's anger," Norris said. "I'm angry, too," he added, chastising Shawn Green for running from trouble instead of facing it and "for leaving his mother out to dry."

The Rev. McFadden got up and spoke, as did family friend Herbert Malone, of Crawley's truthful and charitable nature. Then Crawley spoke: "I'm a God-fearing Christian woman," she sobbed. "We all fall short sometime. Please show mercy."

Crawley's sobs prompted sobs from the gallery. The two-year sentence elicited a gasp from several observers. "They just railroaded her," an observer said on the way out of court. "I don't know how they sleep at night," another said, referring to the prosecutor and the judge.

"The facts were fabricated," Malone declared in the hallway. "The judge didn't listen to a word she said. He already made up his mind. I've seen hard-core drug dealers get less time."

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Tags: shawn green, shadow economy

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