- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Among the more than 140 pardons and commutations issued by outgoing President Trump late Tuesday was one for a former D.C. real estate developer and landlord who had been convicted of wire fraud.

Mr. Trump granted Douglas Jemal a full pardon, describing him as “an American businessman and philanthropist credited with rebuilding many urban inner cities in the United States.”

A Brooklyn native, Mr. Jemal began investing in D.C. real estate in the 1990s, rebuilding parts of downtown, New York Avenue NE and Columbia Heights.

In 2006, he was convicted of wire fraud. The charge stemmed from his submitting an invoice worth more than $430,000 from a fraudulent corporation to money lender Morgan Stanley, which gave Cayre Jemal‘s Gateway a $67 million loan for building renovation costs.

In 2007, a federal judge sentenced Mr. Jemal to pay a $175,000 fine and serve five years of probation.

The Trump administration acknowledged the various charitable causes Mr. Jemal took up, including the rebuilding of churches, in a statement on his pardon.

Former U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina, who presided over the Jemal case, had noted the developer’s civic works and “high degree of generosity and integrity” during his sentencing in 2007 and concluded it was “inconceivable” to send him to prison.

Neither D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser nor Mr. Jemal could be reached for comment regarding the pardon.

A U.S. District Court jury found Mr. Jemal guilty of one count of wire fraud but acquitted him on all counts related to allegations that he bribed a city official.

The jury found him not guilty of bribery, mail fraud and conspiracy to bribe related to allegations that he and other defendants gave $25,000 and gifts to a D.C. official for favorable leasing deals with the District. The official, Michael A. Lorusso, who had served as deputy in the D.C. Office of Property Management, had pleaded guilty to taking bribes in 2004.

The jury also acquitted Mr. Jemal‘s son, Norman, of all charges, but found Douglas Development Corp. leasing official Blake Esherick guilty of wire fraud and two counts of tax evasion.

For the wire fraud charge, prosecutors said Mr. Jemal and Mr. Esherick had used the phony invoice to draw down about $400,000 from a construction loan in a multimillion-dollar tenant-improvement fund for “personal use and benefit.”

At his sentencing, Mr. Jemal told the judge: “I care about buildings that have been abandoned and left alone. I care about people who have been abandoned and left alone.”

Mark Dubester, the lead prosecutor of the case, had urged the judge to not give too much consideration to Mr. Jemal‘s charitable work and letters of support, arguing that the wealthy defendants should not get a lenient sentence due to their community donations.

• Shen Wu Tan can be reached at stan@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide