Court denies Myrtle Beach developer Ford Shelley’s fraud appeal

dwren@thesunnews.comJuly 18, 2013 

— A federal appeals court has denied Ford Shelley’s appeal of a mail fraud conviction related to the sale of one of his condominium projects here, which means the developer perhaps best known as the husband of a “Myrtle Manor” cast member will remain in prison until next year.

Shelley – whose wife, Gina, plays a hairdresser on the cable television show about life in a Myrtle Beach trailer park – pleaded guilty in late 2011 to the mail fraud charge because he thought he would not receive a prison sentence. After a judge sentenced him to serve 20 months at Bennettsville Correctional Institution, Shelley claimed he was innocent and only pleaded guilty because of his lawyers’ bad advice. Shelley also claimed prosecutors threatened to press charges against his wife if he didn’t plead guilty.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Thursday refused to consider Shelley’s allegations about his lawyers, saying there was no evidence to back up the claims.

“In the plea agreement, Shelley waived his right to appeal his conviction or sentence except in the case of ineffective assistance or prosecutorial misconduct,” a three-judge panel stated in its ruling. “Because the record here does not conclusively show that counsel was constitutionally ineffective, we decline to review this claim on direct appeal.”

The appeals court also dismissed Shelley’s appeal of a $945,953 restitution judgment, saying Shelley agreed to accept the sentence handed down to him when he signed the plea agreement.

“A defendant who knowingly and explicitly agrees to a waiver of all rights to appeal his sentence has generally waived the right to appeal restitution,” the appeals court ruled.

In affirming Shelley’s conviction, the appeals court declined to hear oral arguments, saying the facts of the case were clear from the district court record.

Shelley hired James Parkman III – an Alabama lawyer who is part of a national network of lawyers in a firm founded by the late Johnnie Cochran, best-known for his defense of O.J. Simpson – to represent him in the appeal. John Potterfield, an assistant U.S. attorney who specializes in mortgage fraud cases, represented the federal government.

Shelley pleaded guilty to a felony charge that he provided buyers of his Pineapple Bay condos with kickbacks that were not disclosed on HUD-1 settlement statements. The loans on those condos went into default and banks lost nearly $1 million on the deals. Shelley began his prison sentence in January and is scheduled to be released on June 14, 2014, according to a Federal Bureau of Prisons database.

Shelley has maintained his innocence, even after signing a guilty plea agreement, saying the bank that made the condo loans told him that it would be legal for him to pay 10 percent of the purchase cost for Pineapple Bay buyers yet not disclose that payment on closing documents.

Shelley has said the only reason he pleaded guilty was because his lawyers promised him he would get probation, a claim his lawyers have denied in affidavits filed in federal court.

One of those affidavits states that Shelley recruited Myrtle Beach real estate agent Scott Lemons to find straw buyers for four of the Pineapple Bay condos, located on Porcher Drive. Shelley then paid Lemons more than $700,000 for finding the buyers, who never made a payment on their mortgages.

Lemons, in an unrelated case, is facing three felony charges of mail fraud related to condo sales at the Ashley Park project in Carolina Forest. Lemons falsely inflated the comparable values of units in the project by taking part in sham purchases from Ashley Park’s developer, according to an indictment. Lemons has pleaded not guilty and is free on $50,000 unsecured bond while awaiting a trial schedule to start in September.

“Myrtle Manor,” which airs on The Learning Channel, is filming its second season at Patrick’s Mobile Home Park in Myrtle Beach. Gina Shelley plays the co-owner of Tangulls, the trailer park’s hair salon.

Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281.

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