A little more than a year ago, SF Weekly ran a cover story about a Bay Area man named James Delbert McConville and his alleged real-estate scams that left a giant mess of angry investors in their wake. Following the story, he fell off the radar until May, when he and five coconspirators were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud by a federal grand jury.
Although McConville is now safely tucked away in jail while his case is pending in U.S. District Court in Oakland (he has pleaded not guilty), the fallout from his alleged shenanigans continues to spread.
Earlier this month, the St. Petersburg Times in Florida linked McConville to billionaire real estate investor and Democratic Senate hopeful Jeff Greene.
The Times reported that in 2006, Greene's company sold Southern California condos to McConville, which McConville then flipped for inflated prices to "straw buyers" who never intended to live in or pay for the condos. According to the story, Greene's signatures on grant deeds to the alleged buyers indicate that he may have enabled the fraudulent sales.
Soon after the Times ran its article, Greene's lawyers wrote to the paper, saying he may have sold some 300 condo units to McConville, but he had no knowledge of any illegal activity.
The Times "falsely conveys to the average reader that Mr. Greene was aware of, and an active participant in, Mr. McConville's criminal scheme as it related to his purchase of the property and his intentions to thereafter fraudulently obtain mortgages in order to enrich himself," Greene's lawyers wrote.
Greene has threatened to sue for libel if the Times and the Miami Herald, which reprinted the story, don't run retractions. As of our deadline, neither paper had printed a retraction, and no lawsuit had been filed.
"The Times' coverage of Mr. Greene and his business transactions has been thorough and fair, and the reporting is well documented in public records," editor Neil Brown wrote in a statement. "Our story is accurate [and] balanced, and we stand by it."
McConville isn't the only shady character with a criminal record to whom Greene has been connected. According to Miami New Times, Mike Tyson was best man at Greene's wedding, "Hollywood Madam" Heidi Fleiss was a longtime houseguest, and Lindsay Lohan was photographed hanging out with him on New Year's Eve while vacationing in St. Barts.
With friends like those, no wonder Greene considered McConville a good guy to do business with.