MEET ISAAC TOUSSIE…. Yesterday, the Bush White House released a list of 19 presidential pardons and one commuted prison sentence. The new batch didn’t include any of the “famous” people seeking clemency, but there was one name that warrants a closer look.
President Bush pardoned a Brooklyn real estate developer accused of scamming hundreds of poor, minority homebuyers — and whose father donated $28,500 to the Republican Party this year.
Bush pardoned Isaac Toussie, 36, two days before Christmas in a gesture of mercy that outraged ex-customers who said they were duped into buying overpriced, defective homes.
“We’re in the middle of a mortgage crisis [and] this is somebody who was alleged to have participated in predatory lending practices,” said Peter Seidman, a lawyer who represents 460 people who say they were fleeced.
“To pardon Isaac Toussie is a kick in the teeth to homeowners struggling with mortgages they can’t afford.”
Toussie, who falsified the finances of prospective homebuyers seeking HUD mortgages, pleaded guilty in 2003 to mail fraud and lying to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Despite having scammed hundreds of families — selling overpriced, poorly built homes to minority first-time buyers who couldn’t afford them — Toussie was sentenced to only five months in prison and five months house arrest, and has been out of jail for several years now, working as a real estate and marketing consultant.
So why on earth give this guy a pardon now? Given the economic circumstances of the day, is now really a good time for the president to pardon a scam artist who got off easy running an illegal mortgage scheme?
Making matters worse, Toussie’s father, Robert, made his first political donation in April, giving the Republican National Committee $28,500. Four months later, the U.S. Pardon Attorney received Toussie’s pardon petition, and five months after that, Toussie’s record is suddenly clean by presidential fiat.
Toussie’s victims, as one might imagine, are not at all happy about Bush’s decision.
Without additional information, it’s hard to know whether Toussie’s father effectively bought a presidential pardon for $28,500. But given the Republicans’ new-found interest in revisiting the Marc Rich controversy, this is a pardon that seems to deserve a lot more scrutiny.