Lengthy Prison Sentence Affirmed For Former Florida Beekeeper Of The Year Turned Mortgage Fraud Kingpin

by: Peter J. Gallagher

A federal appeals court recently affirmed the 28-year prison sentence doled out to Phillip Hill, a Georgia man convicted of mortgage fraud who was once named the beekeeper of the year in the state of Florida (proving once again that all things foreclosure have some connection to the Sunshine State).  The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported on the story in an article entitled "Convictions Upheld In Massive Mortgage Fraud Scheme" (h/t How Appealing).  The government described Hill as the leader and kingpin of a scheme, pursuant to which Hill and his associates "fraudulently obtained 300 mortgage-backed loans for buyers who used the loans to buy properties [from Hill] at more than market value."  Hill and eight of his partners in crime — who were also hit with lengthy prison sentences — pocketed approximately $22 million dollars in ill gotten gains through the scheme from 2000 to 2003.  

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit put an unusually personal spin on Hill and his scheme, when it began its opinion as follows:

When Phillip Hill was a young man growing up the small town of Sumatra, Florida he helped tend his grandfather’s beehives. He would, as his lawyer would later tell the jury, “get the honey out of the hives.” And he was good at what he did, being named “Florida beekeeper of the year” when he was twenty years old.  Three decades later, Hill got involved in the busy hive of Atlanta’s high-end residential real estate market. His goal was still to get out as much honey as he could.

Leaving no pun unturned, the court later noted that almost all of the loans entered into by Hill and his band of thieves went into default, "causing lenders and guarantors to be stung with over $38 million in losses."

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