The money would flow from Russia to Portugal to London. Banks would make guarantees to other banks, totaling $110 million, Monroeville finance whiz David Charles Jackson told Delaware lender Walton Johnson.
Once all of the fees were paid and the proceeds divided, Mr. Johnson's business, Holly Tree Investments LLC, would have a $29.6 million credit line with which it could underwrite loans to businesses, according to the contract he and Jackson signed.
All Mr. Johnson had to do was pay a $275,000 commitment fee to Jackson's company, American Capital Holdings LLC, and within weeks he could be lending to businesses that were struggling to find financing.
One year and $275,000 later, Mr. Johnson has nothing but a trail of emails and cease-and-desist letters in hand. He has neither the $29.6 million nor a refund of the $275,000 called for in his contract, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in allegations backed by emails between him and Jackson.
Jackson created American Capital Holdings in July 2006. Even as he filed the paperwork, he was awaiting sentencing for bank fraud and money laundering related to a mortgage fraud scheme. Federal agents said he had conned banks into backing fraudulent purchases of houses in places like Wilkinsburg and Lincoln-Lemington.
Since his 2009 release from prison, his company has faced allegations that sound like they come straight out of the 2013 movie "American Hustle." His firm has been accused in lawsuits in federal court of taking fees to arrange international financing that never came.
Mr. Johnson said he has spoken frequently about Jackson with an FBI agent in the bureau's office in New Haven, Conn. That agent said he "cannot confirm or deny anything regarding David Jackson."
Jackson called Mr. Johnson's allegations "nonsense.“
"I'm not at liberty to discuss it with you because it's an ongoing legal issue," Jackson said, shortly before terminating the call. "It's going to be tried in a court of law, like the contract states."
He referred questions about his past and his business to an attorney, who declined comment.
Mr. Johnson, of Milford, Del., has embarked on a relentless crusade to get his money back, even staking out Jackson's new office in Maryland last week.
Being out $275,000 has "made it extremely difficult on my family," Mr. Johnson said. "We're barely scraping by to survive."
'He's an intelligent man'
Jackson, then of New Kensington, was a mortgage broker from 1998 through 2001, running a company called Comvest Capital Enterprises, according to the federal indictment filed against him in 2005.
He conspired with several other men who sold properties to one another, or to straw buyers, and obtained outsized bank mortgages on which they later defaulted, according to the indictment. Jackson's role was to secure inflated appraisals and submit to the banks false loan applications, according to the federal prosecutors.
While awaiting sentencing, Jackson was also doing business as 1st Capital Funding Group, according to a motion filed by prosecutors in the case. He "enticed a would-be investor ... into an agreement and a written contract" under which the investor would lend him $155,000 for the purposes of a real estate development, the prosecutor wrote. Instead, according to the prosecutor, Jackson spent the money on personal expenses, including leases of a Jaguar and a Jeep Commander.
After sentencing Jackson in 2006, U.S. District Judge Maurice B. Cohill took the unusual step of adding a handwritten note to the judgment form.
"This defendant fooled a lot of people (and banks) in his illegal dealings," the judge wrote. "I don't believe he recognizes his own guilt yet, despite his guilty plea. He is an intelligent man, and I recommend counseling along those lines if it's available."
The judge ordered Jackson to serve three years and five months in prison, and ruled that he and his co-conspirators must pay $1,291,175 in restitution to bilked banks. U.S. Attorney David Hickton's spokeswoman said she could not divulge the amounts of any restitution payments by Jackson.
In 2012, Jackson's company started a legal battle with a Massachusetts man, Alexander D. Hurt, president of Kingdom Church and Dominion Christian Church.
In two lawsuits in federal court, American Capital Holdings accused Mr. Hurt's churches and related entities of claiming to have access to international financing and even African gold, and of making financial promises on which they did not deliver.
Last year Kingdom Church countered with its own lawsuit against Jackson, accusing him of using multiple names and businesses while promising to round up millions for a planned church expansion. The church paid entities tied to Jackson $242,000 in fees, but got neither the pledged financing nor reimbursement, resulting in the foreclosure of the church property, according to the complaint.
In October, both sides dropped their lawsuits in a settlement, the terms of which were not disclosed.
In a separate federal court matter, a broadband company in Minnesota accused American Capital Holdings of working with an Ohio company to charge commitment fees and then failing to provide promised loans.
'Nothing but excuses'
Mr. Johnson said he didn't learn of the indictment and lawsuits, in part because Jackson used only his middle name, Charles, in their dealings.
Casting about for a prompt loan to save a hotel from foreclosure, Mr. Johnson came across American Capital Holdings. They didn't consummate a deal then, but conversed by phone and Skype for around a year, Mr. Johnson said.
"He wanted me to do a deal with him," said Mr. Johnson. "I looked for their name. I looked for any scams they had. Nothing appeared. ... Almost a year later I went ahead and entered into doing a deal because it would provide me funds that I could lend" to others.
The two eventually entered into a contract that described a complex financing scheme involving Sberbank in Russia, Banco Espirito Santo in Portugal and Barclays bank in Britain.
That's consistent with American Capital Holdings' website, which describes the limited liability company as "a boutique hard money lender for commercial real estate." It lists a series of international banks and terms on letters of credit ranging from $5 million to $10 billion, and commercial mortgages topping out at $30 million.
Mr. Johnson's contract obligated his company to pay $275,000, but indicated that if the financing wasn't completed in 10 days, that amount would be returned.
Mr. Johnson said he was then treated to "a song and dance about the bank having some holdups."
In August, Jackson indicated that the deal would be concluded "next week," according to an email from Jackson and provided by Mr. Johnson. A March email from Jackson to Mr. Johnson, though, said American Capital Holdings was still "in the process of completing compliance with the participating banks."
Finally, on June 5, Jackson wrote to Mr. Johnson telling him to expect "a refund of the initial funds advance[d] pursuant to the terms condition of the agreement."
Three weeks and many emails later, Mr. Johnson said he still had not received any payment. "It's been nothing but excuses," he said.
Mr. Johnson has received several letters from Downtown Pittsburgh attorney Anthony E. Patterson, demanding that he cease and desist from contacting Jackson and his associates. Mr. Patterson declined to address questions from the Post-Gazette.
American Capital Holdings left the Monroeville office listed on its website several months ago, and left no forwarding address, said a receptionist who serves numerous businesses in the suite. A receptionist at a shared office suite in Fulton, Md., confirmed that the business had moved in there.
Mr. Johnson said his company has soldiered on, but with difficulty.
"I have to back out of commitments because of my position," he said. "It makes us look as though we can't manage our money."
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1542. Twitter @richelord.