For Immediate Release
Las Vegas Man Sent to Prison for Scheme to Defraud Mortgage Lender
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Robert Lyle Buckhannon, 59, of Las Vegas, Nevada, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff to serve 24 months in federal prison for his role in a conspiracy to defraud a California mortgage lender in connection with a Battle Creek business, On Deck Sports Bar & Grill. Buckhannon will spend two years on court supervision following release from prison and was ordered to pay $467,213.98 in restitution to his victims and a $1,000 fine.
“West Michigan is not a safe zone for fraudsters,” commented U.S. Attorney Birge. “Mr. Buckhannon brought his scheming ways here and now he’s headed to prison.”
In July 2019, Buckhannon pleaded guilty in a Grand Rapids federal courtroom to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Buckhannon admitted that, in 2013, he sent fake lease agreements and fake rent checks to the mortgage lender purporting to show $42,000 in annual rental income to induce the lender to loan $456,000 to On Deck Sports Bar & Grill, a Battle Creek business owned by co-defendant Kelly DeMoss (a/k/a Kelly Flees). In truth, there were no tenants or leases in the building, only the restaurant. After fraudulently obtaining the loan proceeds, Buckhannon and DeMoss siphoned off $36,500 of the loan proceeds for the purchase of a personal residence, which had not been disclosed to the lender and which held no mortgage on the residence. Shortly after the fraud scheme was executed, On Deck Sports Bar and Grill was destroyed by fire on December 30, 2013.
Judge Neff’s sentence reflected in part that Buckhannon had previously been convicted of a wire fraud conspiracy in Nevada for his role in defrauding investors in connection with a hedge fund called the Vestium Equity Fund in which he was ordered to pay $239,686.19 in restitution to those victims. He is serving a three-year probationary sentence for that offense. The Court noted the need for punishment and specific deterrence given Buckhannon’s prior fraudulent conduct and other criminal history.
Buckhannon’s co-defendant, Kelly Flees, previously was sentenced by Judge Neff to serve one year on federal probation and to pay $30,654.42 in restitution for her role in the offense. Ms. Flees was convicted of misprision of a felony (having knowledge of Buckhannon’s felony offense, failing to report it to law enforcement, and taking an affirmative step to conceal the crime).
The case was investigated by the Grand Rapids office of the ATF and the Battle Creek Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher O’Connor and Erin Lane prosecuted the case.