Lee Farkas, the gay 58-year-old former owner of Blake’s and founder and former chair of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp., was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison for his role in a $3 billion mortgage fraud.
Farkas was found guilty in April on 14 counts of conspiracy and bank, wire and securities fraud. Prosecutors sought a life sentence for Farkas and have said the case against him was the one 0f the biggest coming out of the financial meltdown in the U.S.
Prosecutors say Farkas masterminded a $3 billion fraud involving fake mortgage assets that duped financial institutions, even the federal government, and led to the failure of an Alabama bank. In the process, Farkas pocketed more than $30 million to fund a lavish lifestyle of homes, autos, planes, restaurants and other businesses.
Farkas picked up Blake’s when it was purchased in 2004 by Thunderflower in a deal that also included Blu and WETbar. At the time Farkas was a manager in the company; Blu and WETbar closed in 2008. Blake’s was not listed among Farkas’ assets during criminal proceedings against him and it’s not clear if the Thunderflower purchase was fueled with cash Farkas pocketed from the mortgage scam.
Blake’s corporate ownership later changed and in the process, grew murkier. A Georgia corporation now does business as Blake’s on the Park and lists its principal office address as a unit on 13th Street in Midtown. Not surprisingly, Blake’s managers wouldn’t clarify the bar’s ownership structure last June when Farkas was indicted.
Farkas took the stand during the trial to explain away the fraud this way: “I didn’t believe at the time I committed any crimes, and I don’t believe now that I committed any crimes.”