Radmer - Man calls church lots `fair game'

From the Chicago Tribune--

Man calls church lots `fair game'
Ex-lawyer confesses, officials say

By Ray Gibson and Robert Becker
Tribune staff reporters
Published June 15, 2006

A disbarred Berwyn attorney was ordered held in lieu of $100,000 bail
Wednesday after prosecutors said he had "confessed to all the crimes"
in the fraudulent sale of vacant land owned by churches.

In the last month, the Tribune has exposed a scheme that sold 22
vacant lots owned by a dozen churches, a homeless shelter and a
school. The newspaper linked the sales to Phillip Radmer, who used his
Berwyn home as the address for the shell companies named in the deals.

Asst. State's Atty. John Mahoney told Cook County Criminal Court Judge
Raymond Myles that Radmer went after the vacant lots because the
churches were not required to pay property taxes on them.

"He considered it fair game to acquire these properties," Mahoney told
the judge.

A day after his arrest, Radmer appeared Wednesday via a video monitor
dressed in a white T-shirt and blue jeans. He was silent during the
hearing. Charged with two felonies--theft and organizing an ongoing
financial crime--he remained jailed, with his next hearing scheduled
for July 10.

Also Wednesday, a church that lost a parcel filed suit to regain its

Saint John Church-Baptist filed the suit in Cook County Circuit Court
asking the court to void Radmer's title to its parcel. The lawsuit
also asked a judge to order Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to
revoke the corporation that Radmer allegedly formed to sell the

The flurry of court activity was the culmination of three weeks of
intense scrutiny of the former attorney following a Tribune

The newspaper's stories launched an investigation by the office of
Cook County State's Atty. Richard Devine, the U.S. Postal Inspection
Service and other agencies, which resulted in a raid Tuesday on
Radmer's apartment.

Mahoney, deputy supervisor of the public corruption and financial
crimes unit of the state's attorney's office, summarized the results
of the raid and the investigation during Wednesday's hearing.

Mahoney told the judge that Radmer's scheme involved more than 50 real
estate closings since 2004.

Mahoney said the properties were sold to straw buyers who would later
transfer the parcels to three corporations controlled by Radmer.

Mahoney said investigators found a 9mm handgun and "over a hundred
rounds of ammunition." Investigators also discovered $100,000 in
Radmer's cramped, second-floor apartment.

After the hearing, Mahoney said the state's attorney's office had
begun the process of seizing $177,000 Radmer held in financial
institutions. Authorities believe the money came from Radmer's alleged
criminal activity.

"It's like he was running around selling the Brooklyn Bridge and he
actually found someone to buy it," Mahoney said. "This could be
happening all the time. This is scary."

With the criminal prosecution against Radmer under way, some churches
such as Saint John Church-Baptist have moved to recover their property
through civil proceedings.

In its lawsuit against Radmer, the church alleges that the deed and
all other documents associated with the transfer "are fraudulent,
unauthorized, invalid and void."

But in a new twist in legal strategy, Thaddeus Wilson, an attorney for
the church, said Wednesday that he wants the secretary of state's
office to revoke the corporation allegedly formed by Radmer.

The lawsuit alleges that White's office has a duty under the law to
revoke any corporation "formed and conducting itself for an unlawful
purpose" or formed "for the sole purpose of furthering a criminal

David Druker, a spokesman for White, said the office didn't believe it
had the authority to revoke Radmer's corporation.

Druker added, however, that if the office received a court order to
void Radmer's similarly named St. John Church-Baptist corporation,
White's office would look at revoking other similar companies that he


Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

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