Feds to charge North Miami mayor with mortgage fraud

<a href="mailto:jweaver@MiamiHerald.com">jweaver@MiamiHerald.com</a>May 19, 2014 

Federal agents were searching early Monday for North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau to charge her with mortgage fraud.

Tondreau was not at her home when FBI agents came knocking, according to sources familiar with the federal investigation. She was out of town.

Tondreau has been charged along with other suspects in a criminal conspiracy case that may be unsealed Monday afternoon, the sources said. But so far, only one of the defendants, Karl Oreste, is scheduled for a first appearance this afternoon in Miami federal court before Magistrate Judge John O’Sullivan.

Tondreau’s defense attorney, Ben Kuehne, told The Miami Herald that his client called him Monday after family members notified her that FBI agents had come to her North Miami home with an arrest warrant.

Kuehne said his client was out of town on official city business.

“I would have liked to surrender her voluntarily,” Kuehne said. “That’s what I’m working on now.”

The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

Last June, North Miami voters elected Tondreau as the city’s first-ever Haitian-American female mayor. She defeated Kevin Burns with nearly 60 percent of the vote, in an election fraught with racial tensions because of the changing demographics of the city.

“I love my community,” Tondreau said at the time. “Once the election is over, it’s time for the city to be united. We need one city for all residents.”

In a separate probe, Tondreau is also being investigated by state prosecutors, who last year tied online absentee-ballot requests made in bulk to her campaign office. Florida law prohibits ballot requests to come from anyone other than voters themselves or their family. Tondreau has denied any wrongdoing.

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