Last week, Schiff Hardin LLP partner William Ziegelmueller successfully convinced a jury to acquit the firm’s client of federal bank fraud charges last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Ziegelmueller represented Chicago businessman Brett Immel, who was one of three defendants accused of conspiring to commit bank fraud through a series of real estate transactions designed to allow investors to take advantage of the GO-Zone tax incentive in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. Immel, a partner in Hanover Companies, introduced investors from across the country to investment properties along the Gulf Coast. The government alleged that Mr. Immel conspired with a closing agent and title attorney to conceal Hanover’s role in the transactions, in part through the creation of two different HUD-1 settlement statements, only one of which was provided to the mortgage lenders who financed the investors’ purchases of properties from developers.

“The verdict in Mr. Immel’s favor vindicates our defense strategy, which was to emphasize that the government had no evidence of criminal intent,” Ziegelmueller said. “We are proud to have cleared Mr. Immel’s name and convinced that justice was served in this case.

“From the beginning, the government saw two HUD-1s and concluded there must be fraud. They never considered that the defendants believed in good faith that there were two separate transactions, only one of which involved the lender and, therefore, that two closing statements were appropriate.”

Ziegelmueller was assisted at trial by Camille M. Knight of Burleson, Pate & Gibson, LLP in Dallas, Texas.

One co-defendant, closing agent Daniel Bomar, pled guilty in advance of trial and testified against the remaining defendants. The other co-defendant, Mississippi attorney James Wright, was also acquitted at trial.