A 47-year-old man who obtained fraudulent loans totaling more than $1.5 million was sentenced Wednesday to a year and a half in jail.
“You don’t strike me as a recidivist,” Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Ronald B. Rubin told the defendant, John Wesley Miller of Leesburg, Va.
The decision elicited a strangled sob from Miller’s 18-year-old daughter, who watched the proceedings.
According to prosecutors and court records, in 2005, Miller began buying townhouses in Chestertown in Kent County. His intent, according to Montgomery County Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Hill, was to renovate and resell the houses or rent them out.
But Miller kept running out of money and began applying for more and more loans, according to court records.
From 2005 to 2008, Miller engaged in a sophisticated mortgage fraud, overstating his income, having his properties appraised at more than they were worth so he could take out mortgages on them, and falsifying records — all to get loans from American Star Financial and Columbo Bank in Montgomery County.
Miller’s case was adjudicated in Montgomery County Circuit Court because the fraud took place here, said Ramon Korionoff, a spokeswoman for the county state’s attorney’s office.
Three other people were charged in the scheme.
In April 2012, one defendant, John Brown, 68, of Silver Spring, a property appraiser, received a year of jail time, which was suspended, and two years of unsupervised probation, according to online court records.
Another defendant, Earl David Fox, 69, of Kensington, a friend of Miller’s, was sentenced to 10 years of prison, all of it suspended, in March 2012. He also was placed on five years of supervised probation.
A third defendant, Lee Smith, 48, of Frederick, a mortgage broker, is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 16.
In December, Miller pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft and conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud.
In court on Wednesday, A. Stephen Hut, Miller’s public defender, told Rubin that his client had led an “exemplary” life and that his actions were the result of panic and a lapse in judgement.
Hut asked that Miller be sentenced to probation and be required to pay back up to $50,000 of the fraudulent money, arguing that “the punishing effects of any jail time would be felt by [Miller]’s children.”
Pleading guilty, Hut said, had already forced Miller to confront his crimes and reinforced his sense of remorse.
“He knows he betrayed the honorable life he had before these acts,” Hut said.
Miller said little when it came time for him to speak.
“I understand the severity of what I did, and that’s why I made the plea,” he said, before telling Rubin, “I never went into this with the intent to not repay anyone. ... I’m sorry I let my children down.”
Before issuing a sentence, Rubin noted that Miller started making restitution payments as soon as he pleaded guilty and had not used the fraudulent loans to fund a lavish lifestyle.
The sentence also included an additional 18 months of suspended jail time, a $5,000 fine and restitution up to $50,000, as well as five years of supervised probation.
The judge spoke about the importance of deterring future fraud and noted a lot of money was involved.
“There are relatively few prosecutions for fraud of this kind. ... If the citizenry believes nothing will happen, they will do it. If on the other hand, they believe something will happen, some people will be deterred,” he said.