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Two Baton Rouge men face federal bank fraud charges

When Louisiana residents are accused of white collar crimes such as fraud or embezzlement, they may be faced with a dizzying array of state and federal charges, pressed against them with all the weight of the state and federal governments. It can be an overwhelming challenge.

Two Baton Rouge men now are facing federal charges over what prosecutors said was a fraudulent scheme to get bank loans for their business. The two allegedly lied to banks in order to obtain $368,469 in loans to build the Powerhouse Gym in Baton Rouge, which ultimately never opened.

The two men already have been sued by Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell for alleged violations of state regulations in the way they conducted the gym business. The attorney general alleged that the two sold memberships to the gym before it opened and continued to collect credit card payments from members even after the gym failed to open.

The criminal fraud charges stem from an FBI investigation. Prosecutors say that the men inflated the value of their business and personal assets in an effort to receive the two loans. They face charges of bank fraud, wire fraud and making false statements to banks.

Fraud is a kind of misrepresentation made by a person who knows it to be false, made to a person who relies on the misrepresentation and is injured or suffers loss as a result. Wire fraud is essentially fraud committed over the telephone or Internet.

Those accused of fraud, embezzlement and other white collar crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty. They are entitled to a strong defense. And, with the powerful forces aligned against them when federal and state prosecutors are involved, they need one.

Source: The Advocate, "Businessmen accused of bank fraud in gym scheme," Bill Lodge, June 15, 2013