A Newport Beach man and his two sons pleaded guilty in federal court in Los Angeles on Monday to defrauding several banks and thrifts, bringing to an end a wide-ranging task force investigation of bogus real estate transactions involving two dozen individuals.
The convictions of John M. Coughlan Sr., 74, and his sons, John Jr., 54, of Long Beach and Errol, 49, of Malibu, came in two separate cases of fraud against several financial institutions, including Trinity Valley Savings & Loan, a Texas thrift that is on the federal government's priority list for investigating fraud.
The Coughlans each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson scheduled sentencing for March 25.
The investigation of the trio was part of a five-year effort by federal, state and local authorities. The probe was sparked by an $118-million fraud against Bank of America in the mid-1980s, said Chief Assistant U.S. Atty. Terree A. Bowers.
It resulted in more than two dozen convictions on charges ranging from racketeering to wire fraud, prison terms of up to 20 years and restitution orders as high as $70 million, Bowers said.
"The perpetrators focused on Southern California real estate as vehicles to induce lenders from across the nation to provide funds," Bowers said.
The Coughlans were accused in a 17-count indictment of defrauding 11 institutions of nearly $8.6 million, which they obtained as loans from banks, S&Ls and an insurance company for construction projects.
The loans were never repaid.
On Monday, Coughlan Sr. pleaded guilty to two counts of mail and wire fraud. His sons pleaded guilty to the same counts Nov. 16. Monday, the sons also pleaded guilty to falsifying loan documents submitted to the failed Trinity Valley Savings in Cleveland, Tex.