A financial broker who is serving time in federal prison in connection with a $2 million mortgage scheme took the stand Wednesday in the conspiracy trial of ex-Eagle Irving Fryar and his mother, Allene McGhee, in the Burlington County Courthouse in Mount Holly.
William Barksdale is the key witness in a high-profile case in which the state Attorney General's Office alleges Fryar and McGhee conspired to defraud six banks and a mortgage company of more than $1 million in 2009. Barksdale, of Levittown, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for assisting Fryar, McGhee, and several other Burlington County clients with the scheme.
In return for his testimony, Barksdale, 48, was sentenced to 20 months, which he testified Wednesday was 18 months less than the time he had expected to receive had he not agreed to cooperate. Though he could have faced up to 30 years in prison and $1 million in fines, the guidelines called for him to be sentenced to 63 to 78 months.
During nearly three hours of testimony, Barksdale described how he had sold a Willingboro home to McGhee, a 74-year-old retired school bus driver, for $200,000 in 2009. He had offered to hold a $140,000 mortgage and then helped her apply for multiple home-equity loans over a short period, using the property as collateral for each loan without disclosing the accumulating debt.
The banks were unaware that they were securing the loan using the same Willingboro house because "it took 60 to 90 days for liens to be recorded at the courthouse" and the closings were scheduled in quick succession, Barksdale said.
Barksdale said that all of the loan money was deposited into his business account, BBG Inc., but he later had cashier's checks written out to Fryar and Fryar's investors. Fryar, 52, a Pro Bowl wide receiver five times during his 17-year NFL career, had retired from football in 2001 and was a minister at the New Jerusalem Church of God, which he had founded in Mount Holly, his hometown.
According to Barksdale, Fryar told him in 2009 that he needed $500,000, soon. Fryar, he said, told him his house in Springfield, Burlington County, had been foreclosed upon and that he also owed money to investors. Barksdale said Fryar said, "Let's go," after Barksdale told him about the scheme he had learned about from a real estate investment broker in Florida, where he had purchased and flipped seven homes.
Barksdale quickly rattled off dates in response to questions by Deputy Attorney General Mark Kurzawa and with little hesitation explained the tactics he had used to keep banks from realizing they were being defrauded.
The scheme "gives you access to capital. . . . You have $800,000 available for them [the clients] to use at their discretion. . . . They could buy stocks . . . take a vacation in Hawaii," Barksdale said.
Barksdale testified that he had selected the banks, picked up the applications, and drove McGhee to three of the loan closings. But he said that he had not attended the closings and did not advise McGhee to falsify her salary on the application, and to provide a phony payroll stub and W-2 form. The state contends that McGhee falsely told the banks she earned from $72,000 to $84,000 as an event planner for Fryar's church and that she fabricated supporting documents.
Mark Fury, McGhee's defense attorney, and Michael Gilberti, who represents Fryar, contend that Barksdale was a con artist who duped their clients and took the money. The lawyers said that all of the money that McGhee obtained from the banks went into Barksdale's account, and that she was not aware the banks were approving all the loans and depositing the funds with him.
Cross-examination of Barksdale is expected to continue Thursday, after it lasted for only a few minutes Wednesday afternoon. The trial is unfolding before a jury and state Superior Court Judge Jeanne T. Covert.