Miami developer Matthew Greer, who pleaded guilty to stealing $16 million from a federal program that finances the construction of apartments for poor people, was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison.
The former CEO of Carlisle Development Group apologized to U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro for his wrongdoing and for “casting a cloud” over an affordable-housing industry whose mission is to build homes for society’s most needy.
“It pains me very deeply,” Greer, 38, said, choking up during his statement to the judge the previous day.
Greer’s high-profile defense attorney, Roy Black, argued that Greer deserved no prison time because he pleaded guilty, cooperated with authorities, paid back the stolen money and has devoted his life to charity.
Black touted the South Florida housing projects built by Carlisle with tax credits issued by the U.S. government, while downplaying that Greer and others involved in his partnerships inflated the construction costs so they could split $34 million in illegal profits.
“I think the public got what they paid for,” Black told the judge. “They were not cheated.”
But Ungaro corrected him, saying the government tax-credit program was robbed of millions in the Greer-led scheme, money that could have been used for other affordable-housing developments for low-income people.
Prosecutor Michael Sherwin hammered that point, saying Greer was driven by “greed,” not charity, and that he “lost his way.”
Last year, the U.S. attorney’s office filed fraud charges accusing Greer and Carlisle founder Lloyd Boggio of conspiring with Biscayne Housing Group's co-founders Michael Cox and Gonzalo DeRamon, as well as with Fort Lauderdale contractor Michael Runyan and South Florida contractors Rene Sierra and Arturo Hevia.
On Thursday, the judge sentenced DeRamon to 1 1/2 years in prison, but gave lenient probation sentences to Cox, Runyan, Sierra and Hevia.
In addition, the judge imposed some home confinement during their probation and hundreds of hours of community service. Ungaro also ordered them to repay the money they illegally took from the federal tax-credit program.
Cox, a Miami longtime affordable-housing developer, said he was "overjoyed" with the judge's decision. He said he has repaid $2.2 million of his $4.4 million obligation so far, and is working with nonprofit groups to help youths who have served prison time find housing and jobs.
Boggio, 70, planned to go to trial in September but changed his mind at the last minute and pleaded guilty. He is scheduled for sentencing in December.
Collectively, the four developers stole more than $34 million in federal housing subsidies — tax credits sold to investors — by inflating construction costs and receiving kickbacks, according to the charges. The three contractors, who paid the kickbacks, kept a portion of that money, too. Like Greer, Cox, DeRamon, Runyan, Sierra and Hevia pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy charges and are also cooperating witnesses.
The federal sentencing guidelines for Greer’s offense ranged from eight to ten years in the housing fraud probe that disgraced the one-time CEO and Carlisle, which was started by his father, lawyer Bruce Greer, two decades ago. Bruce Greer and his wife, Evelyn, a lawyer who once served as mayor of Pinecrest and on the Miami-Dade school board, attended the hearing.
On Wednesday, prosecutors recommended that the judge start at eight years and then reduce it by 40 percent for Greer’s assistance in the long-running FBI and IRS investigation — for a total sentence of about five years.
Ungaro reduced their recommendation by two years, resulting in Greer’s three-year term. That set the bar lower for the other defendants.
In total, prosecutors say, Greer, Boggio and the other defendants plundered tax credits to line their pockets from 14 government-subsidized projects built for the poor in Miami-Dade. All but one were built in Brownsville, Little Haiti and Overtown between 2007 and 2012.
Greer and Boggio set up shell companies to collect illicit payments secretly, according to Sherwin and fellow prosecutor Michael Berger.