- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Citing a lack of evidence at a hearing, a federal judge threw out conspiracy and mortgage fraud charges against three brothers who are all Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies.

U.S. District Judge Manuel Real made the unusual move on Thursday of dismissing the charges just after prosecutors had presented their case. The judge said no reasonable jury would convict Billy, Benny and Johnny Khounthavong.

The case stemmed from an FBI investigation into abuses at the Los Angeles County jail system, though the men were not accused of abusing inmates, the Los Angeles Times (https://lat.ms/1KScqOY ) reported.

Prosecutors alleged that the brothers had engaged in a mortgage scheme to buy a 3,900-square-foot home in 2011 by lying on their application about a previous home on which they owed hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Real said he saw no evidence that the brothers attempted to deceive banks or that lenders were harmed. He also questioned why the FBI got involved when the banks hadn’t complained, defense attorneys said.

“The judge’s comments centered on the complete absence of any evidence of criminal intent,” said attorney Adam Braun, who represented Benny Khounthavong.

Braun said there were mistakes in the mortgage application, but the problems had been inserted by a real estate broker without the brothers’ knowledge. Bank representatives said the inaccurate figures did not influence their decision to lend.

Attorneys said Real made remarks about weaknesses in the government’s case throughout the four-day hearing, including noting that all but one witness had said they had no contact whatsoever with the brothers.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Margaret Carter said her office would take no further action because prosecutors could not appeal the judge’s ruling.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, https://www.latimes.com/


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