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Chael Sonnen Pleads Guilty To Money Laundering, Fights Yoshihiro Akiyama At UFC 128

Chael Sonnen has produced some pretty wild stories in the past year, but this latest one might take the cake.

Remember when Sonnen dropped out of the race for a seat on the Oregon House of Representatives last year? Well, here’s why. The Lake Oswego Review reported today that Chael Sonnen has plead guilty to a federal money laundering charge related to fraudulent mortgage transaction he participated in during his stint as a Realtor.

A licensed Realtor from West Linn, Sonnen admitted before a judge Monday that he conducted a financial transaction designed to hide or disguise the ownership and control of proceeds of mortgage fraud, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

Marcus Williams, a special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigations for the Pacific Northwest, issued a public statement about Sonnen’s case.

“West Linn residents, and other residents throughout the Portland-Vancouver area, can rest assured knowing that federal law enforcement agencies take mortgage fraud very seriously because it played a major role in almost crippling this nation’s banking system just a few years ago,” he said.

Not to minimize his actions, but the charges sound worse than what he actually did. We’re not talking about mafia levels of money laundering here. Specifically, Sonnen helped facilitate an illegal $65,000 kickback to a home buyer as an incentive to purchase a house. More details on this below in the US Attorney Office’s press release.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, however The Oregonian is reporting that Sonnen cut a deal that gives him two years probation and a $10,000 fine in exchange for pleading guilty. He also loses his real estate license.

On a brighter note, MMA Junkie is reporting that Sonnen will compete at UFC 128 in March (assuming his court case doesn’t interfere). He won’t fight Wanderlei Silva though as most expected after he spent the last month trash-talking him. He’ll take on Yoshihiro Akiyama instead.

His sentencing is set to begin 10 days after he is expected to fight Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 128, according to sources close to the event, which today informed ( of the pending booking just as news of the legal trouble broke.

All the details from Sonnen’s money laundering case can be found in the press release below.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Chael Sonnen, 33, of West Linn, Oregon, plead guilty today to one count of money laundering in federal court before the Honorable Michael Mosman. Sentencing is scheduled on March 28, 2011 at 11:30 a.m.

Sonnen, a licensed realtor in the State of Oregon, admitted that a financial transaction he conducted was designed to conceal or disguise the ownership and control of the proceeds of wire fraud. The scheme involved Joel Rosabal and Chadwick Amsden, employees of Crown Point Enterprises, dba Lighthouse Financial Group (Lighthouse), a mortgage brokerage service based principally in Vancouver, Washington, with operations in Oregon and elsewhere. Rosabal and Amsden submitted a materially false loan application on the buyer’s behalf to Decision One Mortgage, a subprime lending institution that is now defunct, for the purchase of residential property located at 11249 SE Rolling Hills Lane, Portland, Oregon. Sonnen acted as the realtor for the transaction. Sonnen submitted a false letter and Sales Agreement Addendum instructing the title company to pay loan proceeds to a plumbing company for repairs to the home. In fact, Sonnen knew and had negotiated with Rosabal that no repairs would be performed on the home and the funds designated to the plumbing company would instead be paid to the buyer as a cash incentive to purchase the home. This agreement was not disclosed to Decision One Mortgage. Once the loan was funded, the title company paid over $69,000 to the plumbing company and the plumbing company, in turn and at Sonnen’s direction, paid $65,000 to the buyer of the home.

“This office will continue to aggressively prosecute real estate professionals who committed the mortgage fraud that contributed to this country’s economic downturn and wreaked havoc on our community’s housing market. We entrusted these professionals to honestly broker real estate transactions and instead, they defrauded lending institutions throughout the country and left financial ruin in their wake,” said Dwight Holton, U. S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

Marcus Williams, the Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigations for the Pacific Northwest said, “West Linn residents, and other residents throughout the Portland/Vancouver area, can rest assured knowing that federal law enforcement agencies take mortgage fraud very seriously because it played a major role in almost crippling this nation’s banking system just a few years ago.”

Money Laundering carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

There are currently two other cases related to Lighthouse pending in the United States District Court of Oregon, United States v. Joel Rosabal et al., USDC Case No. 10-CR-00195 and United States v. Chadwick Amsden, et al., USDC Case No. 10-CR-00196. In addition, three other defendants have pled guilty and have been sentenced to charges related to Lighthouse as well: United States v. Kamau Herndon, USDC Case No. 09-CR-00068, United States v. Marty Folwick, USDC Case No. 08-CR-00280, United States v. Kristen Buse, Case No. 08-CR-00283.

This investigation was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service. The case against Chael Sonnen is being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Michelle Holman Kerin. The pending cases involving Lighthouse are being prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Michelle Holman Kerin and Allan Garten.

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