FRESNO, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) One of the two main targets in a long-running real estate fraud investigation has now pleaded guilty.
Carl Cole admitted guilt to conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud during a federal court hearing Thursday in Fresno. His son, a lesser player in the scheme, also entered a guilty plea as part of a joint agreement with prosecutors.
"My client is accepting responsibility for his involvement for the mortgage fraud that occurred in Bakersfield," said Katherine Hart, Cole's attorney. "He's standing up to the plate of responsibility. He's not evading responsibility. He's fully accepting responsibility."
Former Bakersfield real estate moguls, Carl Cole and David Crisp were accused of scamming millions of dollars out of banks and mortgage companies between 2004 and 2007. They allegedly submitted fraudulent loan applications with material misrepresentations.
The federal court case has 15 total defendants. Including the two Coles, 10 defendants have accepted plea deals. The final five defendants, including Crisp, are slated for trial next year.
Carl Cole's plea agreement calls for him to serve at least eight years in prison and forfeit nearly $30 million. The forfeiture amount is "a reasonable reflection of the amount that he obtained directly or indirectly as the result of the underlying criminal scheme and conspiracy ...," according to the plea agreement.
After the proceeding, Cole spoke briefly about his plans for prison.
"I already have one Master's degree but I've been involved in a website, Earth-friendly website," Cole said. "Maybe get a further degree in some type of green technology."
Sentencing, scheduled for February, is at the judge's discretion, however. Carl Cole could get as much as 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Caleb Cole's maximum sentence is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.