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Another Charlie Crist donor headed for jail

U.S. Attorney Robert O’Neill announced that today that Lee County real estate broker Greg Eagle, who is the father of state Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, pleaded guilty to four counts of bank fraud, one count each of mail fraud and wire fraud. 

Greg Eagle faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison on each of the six counts, and a fine of up to $1 million. He will also be ordered to pay back money he ripped off his victims.

in 2006, Eagle put $1-million into a third-party political group, Floridians for a Better and Brighter Florida, before the September primary. The money later was transferred to another group that helped Crist secure the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Eagle joins Scott Rothstein, Jim Greer, and Alan Mendelsohn as other high-profile bundlers of campaign cash for Crist who now face jail time. Crist and Eagle were close. The former governor stayed at his Useppa Island home. Eagle's son, Dane, was a travel aide for Crist.

Dane Eagle, 29, ran for the state house last year and won. On Thursday, he released this statement:

“While I cannot control the actions or choices of those around me, I am deeply saddened by the circumstances facing my father,” Eagle said. “We are hopeful his cooperation in the ongoing investigation will help to bring closure to everyone affected by this case – including my family. As the State Representative for House District 77, I remain committed to serving my constituents and earning the trust they have placed in me.”

Dane who was not named in the investigation, works as a real estate broker with Eagle Realty, which is where Greg Eagle is still listed as one of the directors. 

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Greg Eagle mortgaged trust property without the knowledge of the other beneficiaries. He submitted altered trust fund agreements name him the sole beneficiary. In 2002, he borrowed $2 million. He paid it off in 2006 -- by borrowing $17 million.

When he defaulted in 2009, he had unpaid balance of $17 million.

According to the News-Press, Eagle represented dozens of parcels during the boom, from about 2000 to after the real estate bust in 2009.

In a News-Press story published Oct. 14, Eagle acknowledged that he poured the $17 million into a project intended to save his empire. However, that project, a proposed Homeland Security training center, caused his financial ruin.

Eagle said Friday that he was wrong to do that, but that his transgressions pale in comparison to what happened to him as he tried to line up financing for the center.

“Who’s the big crook? Is it Greg Eagle?” he asked rhetorically. “You do your due diligence and it’s Wells Fargo.”

Eagle’s suing the bank and others in hope of getting back the investors’ $17 million and perhaps even the $38.5 million the whole episode cost him.

Eagle said he thinks the judge will see that when he’s sentenced and understand he shouldn’t be punished harshly.

His attorney, Wilbur Smith, said the fraud allegedly perpetrated against his client will “go a long way towards explaining Mr. Eagle’s conduct. While it may have been illegal, it wasn’t ill intentioned.”

Smith said that “I think Greg Eagle is a very optimistic guy and an honest guy who thought by doing these other developments (the Homeland Security project) he could recover the money for his investors.”

But when it comes to sentencing, prosecutors will not oppose Eagle’s request to the judge that he be sentenced “at the low end of the applicable guideline range.”