Isaac Toussie

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Isaac Robert Toussie (born 1971) is a Brooklyn, New York real estate developer convicted of fraudulently obtaining mortgages from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. On December 23, 2008, Toussie was granted a pardon by President George W. Bush; however, this pardon was revoked the following day, amid controversy over its apparent impropriety.[1]

Crimes and conviction[edit]

Toussie entered the real estate business with his father, Robert Toussie, in 1993.[2] In 1999, Isaac Toussie was charged with making false statements to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in obtaining mortgages, and with mail fraud, stemming from a letter he sent to Suffolk County officials which overstated the value of a property the county would later buy from Toussie's father.[3][4]

Toussie pleaded guilty on May 24, 2001 to the false statement charge. He subsequently pleaded guilty on December 10, 2002 to the mail fraud charge. In July 2003, Toussie was sentenced to five months of incarceration, followed by three years of probation, and on September 22, 2003, he was fined $10,000.[5]

Isaac Toussie and his father are among the co-defendants in an ongoing class action suit, filed in 2001 by 400 families who claim they were sold shoddily-constructed properties at inflated prices, and told that property taxes would be reduced or deferred. Homeowners paid between US$160,000 and $200,000 for the Suffolk County and Staten Island homes.[6] The suit is the largest ever real estate discrimination suit in New York State.[7]

Toussie placed advertisements in New York City newspapers, offering affordable housing and easy financing, even to individuals with poor credit. The suit claims that these ads included fake endorsements from black celebrities, including Whoopi Goldberg and Maya Angelou.[3][8] Investigators discovered that Toussie had worked with various real estate attorneys, mortgage bankers and home appraisers to get mortgages for hundreds of low-income home-buyers who wouldn't otherwise qualify, and then sell those same people low-quality, overpriced houses that they couldn't afford.[9]

Pardon and revocation[edit]

On December 23, 2008, President Bush granted a pardon to Toussie, angering people who felt Toussie had defrauded them.[10][11] However, the pardon was withdrawn the next day, following a report by the New York Daily News that Toussie's father, Robert Toussie, had given $28,500 to the Republican Party and $2,300 to the presidential campaign of U.S. Senator John McCain.[10] White House press secretary Dana Perino stated that the pardon would be reviewed, in light of the new information.[12] A White House press release read, in part:

Based on information that has subsequently come to light, the President has directed the Pardon Attorney not to execute and deliver a Grant of Clemency to Mr. Toussie. The Pardon Attorney has not provided a recommendation on Mr. Toussie's case because it was filed less than five years from completion of his sentence. The President believes that the Pardon Attorney should have an opportunity to review this case before a decision on clemency is made.[13]

The action by Mr. Bush to revoke the pardon is considered unprecedented, and it is unclear that the president has the power to withdraw a pardon.[14] However, the Justice Department has stated that the pardon was never official, having never been delivered to the person who requested it, and that Toussie would have no legal ground on which to challenge the withdrawal.[8] It appears that the pardon would have made it possible for Toussie to re-enter the real estate business in New York state, which he would not be able to do as a felon.[15]

The pardon was also unusual in that it violated a Justice Department guideline stipulating that convicted criminals not be considered for pardons less than five years after the completion of their sentences. The president is not legally bound by the Justice Department guideline. Toussie's legal representation apparently bypassed normal procedure, and appealed directly to the administration, rather than going through the Justice Department or the chain of command. Toussie's lawyer, Bernard Berenson, was formerly part of the Office of the White House Counsel.[16] White House Counsel Fred Fielding approved the application for the pardon.[3]

On December 27, the Daily News published a photograph of the elder Toussie shaking hands with President Bush, posed in front of an American flag.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ David Stout and Eric Lichtblau (December 24, 2008). "Pardon Lasts One Day for Man in Fraud Case". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Sherman, William (December 26, 2008). "Toussies' trail a doozie: Bush missed half-century of corruption, scam claims against father and son". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2017-03-22. 
  3. ^ a b c Sellman, Mark (December 25, 2008). "Bush revokes pardon for fraudster, Isaac Toussie, whose father donated to Republicans". Times Online. London. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  4. ^ "United State of America, Memorandum and Order against Isaac Toussie" (PDF). United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. August 29, 2005. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  5. ^ Kessler, Robert E. (September 23, 2003). "Toussie son fined, avoids restitution". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on May 1, 2009. Retrieved 2008-12-28. 
  6. ^ Baker, Al (July 11, 2001). "Homeowners' Suit Says They Are Victims in Deceptive Sales Scheme". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-28. 
  7. ^ Mason-Draffen, Carrie (July 11, 2001). "400 Families Sue Builder". Newsday. Archived from the original on December 26, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-28. 
  8. ^ a b Belson, Ken; Eric Lichtblau (December 25, 2008). "A Father, a Son, and a Short-Lived Presidential Pardon". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  9. ^ "Hundreds Fall for New York Housing Scam". consumeraffairs.com. June 24, 2001. Archived from the original on September 13, 2015. Retrieved 2008-12-28. 
  10. ^ a b Stout, David; Eric Lichtblau (December 24, 2008). "Pardon Lasts One Day for Man in Fraud Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  11. ^ Marzulli, John; Celeste Katz (December 23, 2008). "Toussie's victims feel like the roof has fallen in". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  12. ^ Loven, Jennifer (December 25, 2008). "Bush withdraws 1 of 19 pardons he issued Tuesday". The Associated Press. Retrieved 2017-03-22. 
  13. ^ Tumulty, Karen (December 24, 2008). "Pardon Season Update". Time. Retrieved 22 March 2017. 
  14. ^ Froomkin, Michael (December 24, 2008). "Bush "Revokes" A Pardon (When Do Pardons Vest?)". Discourse.net. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  15. ^ German, Erik (December 27, 2008). "Pardon would have cleared way for scammer to re-enter real estate biz". Newsday. Archived from the original on January 11, 2009. Retrieved 2017-03-22. 
  16. ^ Black, Chris (December 26, 2008). "The Daily Muck". TPM Muckraker. TalkingPointsMemo.com. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  17. ^ Katz, Celeste (December 27, 2008). "Photo surfaces of President Bush with father of housing scammer Isaac Toussie". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2008-12-27.