Lawrence William Dunning, of Highland Beach, has been ordered by an Arizona federal court to pay approximately $2.9 million in restitution for his role in a Ponzi scheme, to be followed by three years of supervised release for mail fraud. Three of Dunning’s co-defendants have already been sentenced for terms ranging from 60 days in federal prison to probation and supervised release. Two additional co-defendants have yet to be sentenced. Dunning and another co-defendant, Philip Eugene Vigarino, have civil judgments against them, obtained by the Arizona Corporation Commission, which includes a judgment for $22 million against Dunning.
Dunning perpetrated the scheme by creating Creative Financial Funding, a corporation seeking investors who wanted to fund “hard money lending.” Two of the co-defendants acted as loan officers, while a third helped Dunning form American National Mortgage Partners (“ANMP”), another mortgage-lending entity. Both businesses made and negotiated loans for real property in Arizona. These corporations looked for individuals who could not obtain typical loans because of credit problems, then offered to find investors to fund the loans, with correspondening interest rates as high as 36%.
The borrower’s personal interest in the property, secured by the loan, subsequently transferred into an “Illinois Land Trust,” with ANMP as trustee, and individual investors for that particular loan as the beneficiaries. So long as the borrower paid the loan, the investors received monthly payments. Once borrowers began defaulting on the loans, AMNP would take the real estate, sell the property, and return the investors’ funds. When the defaults started piling up, AMNP began paying its old investors with new investor money. AMNP also used the investor money to pay its overhead expenses.