- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A federal judge has upheld wire-fraud convictions against prominent D.C. developer Douglas Jemal and a top company executive who also was found guilty of tax evasion.

Defense attorneys had hoped to get the wire-fraud charges thrown out against Jemal, president of Douglas Development Corp., and Blake Esherick, the company’s leasing official.

But the judge’s ruling, released late Monday, means both men will face sentencing, which could include prison time in the next few months.

In a 22-page opinion, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina rejected defense requests to overturn the wire-fraud convictions or order a new trial.

Judge Urbina ruled that a reasonable jury could conclude that Jemal and Esherick “possessed the requisite fraudulent intent” concerning the wire-fraud scheme.

The charges stem from a mortgage loan that prosecutors said Jemal and Esherick falsified.

Prosecutors said the scheme involved sending phony documents to lender Morgan Stanley so they could use money from a tenant-improvement fund at the People’s Building on New York Avenue in Northeast and divert the funds to seal the purchase of another building.

Esherick’s sentencing is scheduled for tomorrow in federal court, while Jemal is expected to be sentenced next month.

Prosecutors have asked Judge Urbina to give Esherick up to nearly six years in prison for his convictions on the wire fraud charge and tax evasion.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark H. Dubester and Timothy G. Lynch also are asking the judge to cut off all financial ties between Jemal and Esherick. Esherick’s attorneys are seeking probation.

In sentencing, attorneys for Jemal and Esherick are expected to argue that there was no actual loss in connection with the mortgage loan that resulted in the wire-fraud convictions.

In defense sentencing memos, they have noted testimony from a business partner of Jemal’s and from a Morgan Stanley official who testified that they didn’t lose any money in the mortgage deal.

“There is no actual or intended loss in this case,” argued Esherick’s attorney Paul F. Kemp.

Calling Esherick “a talented and decent family man,” Mr. Kemp asked for a sentence of probation, a fine and community service.

Last month, prosecutors filed a separate sentencing memo asking for “real and meaningful incarceration” for Jemal, while family, friends and acquaintances, including D.C. Council member Jack Evans, filed 204 letters on Jemal’s behalf.

Jemal’s attorneys argue that a prison term would jeopardize Douglas Development, potentially resulting in the loss of jobs of 120 workers.

In October, Jemal, his son Norman Jemal and Esherick were acquitted of charges they gave $25,000 in cash and other gifts to a D.C. leasing official in exchange for favorable deals with the city.

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