For their roles in a mortgage fraud case that rocked Bakersfield, David Crisp was sentenced Monday to 17 1/2 years in prison while his wife, Jennifer, received what the federal judge in the case called “the break of a lifetime”: five years probation. David, 34, was immediately remanded to custody to begin serving what amounts to the same sentence given in February to his former business partner, Carl Cole, who like Crisp had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail, wire and bank fraud. Both former principals of Crisp & Cole Real Estate and Tower Lending were ordered to pay restitution of more than $28 million.
Jennifer Crisp, who was ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution, received a light sentence out of concern for the couple’s 10-year-old son. The 31-year-old mother had admitted to mail and wire fraud.
“I cannot in good conscience leave your son without a parent. I can’t do it,” Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill said. He warned, however, that he would send her to prison for at least five years, maybe 10, if she violated the terms of her probation.
O’Neill cited sharply different circumstances surrounding the two defendants before handing down the sentences at emotional proceedings at the federal district court in Fresno.
He said he struggled with how to punish Jennifer, whose primary crime was acting as a “straw buyer” in a scheme that relied on bogus mortgage loan applications — at least seven signed by her — to buy and sell houses multiple times to extract equity from the meteoric rise in Bakersfield home values between January 2004 and September 2007.