A former business partner of Lucie Tondreau, the suspended North Miami mayor, has turned against her in a federal mortgage-fraud case that threatens to send her to jail and end her political career.
Karl Oreste pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to organizing an $11 million mortgage-fraud scheme that he now says he once ran with Tondreau.
Oreste admitted in Miami federal court that he went on Haitian-American radio programs with Tondreau to lure listeners into their alleged conspiracy against eight lenders, including major banks such as Wachovia.
According to his plea agreement, they recruited “straw” buyers to obtain fraudulent loans to purchase more than 20 homes during the real estate boom, then lined their own pockets with much of the proceeds.
Oreste, 56, of Miramar, who was charged in May along with Tondreau, 54, and two other defendants, agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in the hope of gaining a more lenient sentence.
“Mayor Tondreau is surprised by this development,” said her defense attorney, Ben Kuehne. “But she is confident that, as long as Mr. Oreste testifies to the truth, it will be evidence of her vindication.”