The odd saga of one-time Republican House candidate Chael Sonnen came to at least a temporary end today when Sonnen was sentenced on federal mortgage fraud charges (details below).
In an indirect way, the GOP in Oregon may have benefited from the legal problems that surfaced in 2010 for Sonnen, a leading mixed martial arts fighter. Sonnen never mounted much of a campaign last year in House District 37 (West Linn) for the seat held by state Rep. Scott Bruun, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for Congress.
At the time, Sonnen was busy training for an Aug. 7, 2010 world middleweight title bout with champion Anderson Silva. Prior to the fight, Sonnen tweeted about Silva, a Brazilian and other MMA fighters trained by Ed Soares, calling them a "piglet tribe of savages." (Silva won the bout.)
Sonnen mysteriously dropped out of the legislative race mid-June, citing then-unspecified legal difficulties. Those difficulties turned out to be allegations of mortgage fraud.
Sonnen's departure from the race, however, turned into a blessing for the GOP. Julie Parrish—an unheralded but more importantly, noncontroversial newcomer from West Linn—replaced Sonnen as the Republican candidate. She ended up running a focused campaign, defeating Democrat Will Rasmussen despite being outspent $575,000 to $350,000. So while Sonnen had a tough time with Silva and an even tougher time with the law, he can take some credit for Republicans picking up a hotly contested seat and gaining a first-ever 30-30 split with Democrats in the Oregon House.
Here's today's statement on the sentencing from the U.S. Attorney's office:
PORTLAND, Ore. - Chael Sonnen, 33, of West Linn, Oregon, was sentenced today in federal court to 24 months probation and fined $10,000 relative to his January 3, 2011 money laundering conviction. Sonnen previously forfeited his State of Oregon professional real estate license as part of his plea agreement. Sonnen previously admitted that a financial transaction he conducted was designed to conceal or disguise the ownership and control of the proceeds of wire fraud. The scheme involved Joel Rosabal and Chadwick Amsden, employees of Crown Point Enterprises, dba Lighthouse Financial Group (Lighthouse), a mortgage brokerage service based principally in Vancouver, Washington, with operations in Oregon and elsewhere. Rosabal and Amsden submitted a materially false loan application on the buyerâs behalf to Decision One Mortgage, a subprime lending institution that is now defunct, for the purchase of residential property located at 11249 SE Rolling Hills Lane, Portland, Oregon. Sonnen acted as the realtor for the transaction. Sonnen submitted a false letter and Sales Agreement Addendum instructing the title company to pay loan proceeds to a plumbing company for repairs to the home. In fact, Sonnen knew and had negotiated with Rosabal that no repairs would be performed on the home and the funds designated to the plumbing company would instead be paid to the buyer as a cash incentive to purchase the home. This agreement was not disclosed to Decision One Mortgage. Once the loan was funded, the title company paid over $69,000 to the plumbing company and the plumbing company, in turn and at Sonnenâs direction, paid $65,000 to the buyer of the home. Though Sonnen pled guilty to one count of money laundering, the plea agreement also resolved potential charges arising out of five additional transactions where he acted as the realtor, cash back from loan proceeds was given to a borrower and the cash back was not disclosed to the title company or lender. âThe conviction and sentence imposed in this case demonstrates that no one is above the law. Mortgage fraud caused a blight in our communities and threatened serious risks to our financial institutions. Real estate professionals who commit mortgage fraud in this district will face consequences,â said Dwight Holton, U. S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.