Prominent Dover developer Mike Zimmerman pled not guilty to bank fraud and money laundering charges at the federal courthouse in Wilmington Thursday in connection to the now defunct Wilmington Trust Company's problems with bad real estate loans that led to its fire sale to M&T Bank in 2011.
Zimmerman declined to comment on the court proceeding held at the J. Caleb Boggs Federal Building and referred questions to his attorney, E. Daniel Lyons of the Lyons Law Firm in Wilmington. Lyons could not immediately be reached for comment.
But Zimmerman maintained his innocence.
"I am not guilty," Zimmerman had told the Dover Post previously. "The feds have not been able to get to the board of directors or the loan committee/loan officers so as [stuff] flows down hill, now it's [on] me," he said, referring to the former Wilmington Trust.
Zimmerman, 55, of Dover, was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly committing conspiracy to commit bank fraud and for making false statements to a financial institution in connection to millions of dollars of loans he obtained from the now defunct Wilmington Trust for real estate projects in Kent and Sussex counties.
Zimmerman was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and seven counts of making a false statement to a financial institution, each punishable by a maximum term of 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
The indictment also charged Zimmerman with one count of money laundering in violation of federal law. This charge carries a maximum term of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.
Zimmerman had obtained more than $37 million in financing from the Wilmington Trust Company in connection with three development projects in Kent and Sussex counties — namely Compass Pointe off Silver Lake and the Shoppes at Fieldstone in Dover and Salt Pond Plaza in Bethany Beach. Wilmington Trust sold the debt for these projects to a third party in March 2011 and incurred a loss of more than $26 million on these three projects, the indictment stated.
The indictment alleged that Zimmerman and still unnamed co-conspirators submitted false draw requests for payment from Wilmington Trust in connection with the Salt Pond Plaza, Compass Pointe, and Shoppes at Fieldstone projects, in 2007 and 2008, federal officials said. Federal investigators alleged that Zimmerman and the others did not use the money the way they told Wilmington Trust it would be used.
In one instance, Zimmerman allegedly requested and received $150,000 in funds from Wilmington Trust that he said were for architectural and engineering costs, but he instead used the money to buy a personal interest in a Bahamas development, U.S. Attorney for Delaware Charles Oberly's office said.
Zimmerman had said that he signed for the draws, but they were produced by a former employee and friend.
Page 2 of 2 - He also pointed out that his loans from Wilmington Trust were for income producing real estate, rather than problematic residential real estate notes. In addition, Zimmerman said he put up $200 million in other, non-Wilmington Trust assets as collateral for the loans mentioned by the U.S. attorney.
"It is all about making me a scapegoat for Wilmington Trust's problems," Zimmerman had said. "Several Large Real Estate Investment Trusts and DuPont stockholders filed suit upon sale of Wilmington Trust two years ago alleging Wilmington Trust artificially help up their stock value by not using current appraisals after the real estate market crashed. They apparently lost three to four hundred million dollars.
"It's complicated but I will defend myself," Zimmerman had said. "I have done nothing wrong and if there is an accounting error I will correct it."
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), and the Office of Inspector General, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Robert F. Kravetz and Lesley F. Wolf.