- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A former New Jersey mayor who falsified loan documents and stole a relative’s identity to purchase a farm property was convicted Thursday following a two-week federal fraud trial.

Former Manalapan Mayor Andrew Lucas was convicted after prosecutors said he lied on a loan application and convinced a client of his investment company to invest $250,000 in a company that didn’t exist until Lucas formed it three days later. He also used a relative’s name and social security number to set up that company.

He remains free on $500,000 bond until his Jan. 20 sentencing.

“He sincerely still believes he is innocent. He never meant to defraud,” Mario F. Gallucci, Lucas’ attorney, told the Asbury Park Press. “All he wanted to do was farm.”

Lucas was found guilty of charges including wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, obstruction and making false statements to the IRS.

Loan application fraud carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years and a $1 million fine.

Prosecutors said the 37-year-old lied on the application by claiming that the loan would be repaid using the sale of development rights through the state Farmland Preservation Program. That program pays farm owners who want to keep farming their land rather than sell to developers.

He also claimed to have more than $200,000 in the bank.

To form the company, Lucas listed the name of a relative as the company’s only member, without the relative’s knowledge or authorization. Lucas used the $250,000 from the investment client as a down payment for the farm purchase, according to the indictment.

Lucas was also charged with obstructing a federal investigation last year for allegedly responding to a subpoena by forging his relative’s name on a letter meant to hide the fact the money was fraudulently obtained.

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