Politics & Government

Scheme interests feds

Federal officials are asking a court to give the goverment ownership of $102,000 kept in a trash bag in a case related to a former Pierce County mortgage wunderkind.

The money, according to a July 30 filing by U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, was the product of a scheme by Shawn Portmann that involved, among other factors, “falsifying borrowers’ income, forging or doctoring supporting documents, obtaining inflated appraisals (and) misrepresenting occupancy.”

No criminal charges have been filed, and federal court spokeswoman Emily Langlie would not comment on any possible investigations.

Calls to Portmann and his attorneys were not returned Thursday.

Portmann once touted himself online as among “the top ten loan officers in the nation by the year 2000” and as “number one in the State of Washington for dollar volume” in 2004.

Last September, the unlicensed Portmann was ordered by the state Department of Financial Institutions to cease and desist from engaging in the business of a mortgage broker or loan originator.

By February, according to the federal court filing, he was putting large amounts of cash into a backpack he gave to an associate for safekeeping.

According to the associate, identified only as “SS” in the filing, “Portmann had become aware that he was the subject of an ongoing fraud investigation and consequently asked ‘SS’ to keep the United States currency in his home.”

The money derived, said the filing, from a “scheme involving originating, processing and/or brokering mortgage applications with materially false representations to induce financial institutions to fund and/or purchase loans.”

From 2005 to July 2008, Portmann was senior vice president of Bank Home Loans, a residential lending division of Pierce Commercial Bank, the complaint said.

After leaving Tacoma-based Pierce Commercial, Portmann continued to work in the mortgage industry.

Investigators have found “approximately 11,442 mortgage loans originated by loan officers” at the home-loan division of Pierce Commercial. The loans totaled $2.2 billion. Portmann was found to have originated 5,253 loans totaling more than $990 million, the filing said.

Gary Gahan, president and CEO of Pierce Commercial Bank, said Thursday, “We have been cooperating fully with the various enforcement agencies involved in this investigation. I can’t comment on what they’re investigating, because it is an ongoing investigation.”

“We’re cooperating. We want to see justice served. We’ve been harmed,” he said.

Pierce Commercial Bank is currently operating under a cease-and-desist order from regulators, and it is midway through a capital campaign aimed at raising $6 million.

“The bank is positioned now to move forward,” Gahan said.

The July 30 filing is a civil matter pertaining only to forfeiture of $102,000 in cash.

The scheme outlined in the filing alleged that Portmann, along with a personal assistant identified as “AB,” would obtain cashier’s checks from accounts at Bank of America “to improve the appearance of a borrower’s financial condition.”

Within a few days, the checks would be redeposited into one of Portmann’s accounts.

In January, “AB” told IRS and FBI investigators that “she regularly withdrew cash from Portmann’s savings accounts under Portmann’s direction, placing the withdrawn funds in a safe in Portmann’s house.”