It was a fraudulent scheme so obvious, it passed without question.
When 35-year-old Bryan Gardner sent CitiMortgage a money order request for $353,000 from the account of Secretary of the Treasury Hank M. Paulson, Jr. in 2009, the request went through. CitiMortgage credited the mortgage account in full, according to a Secret Service affidavit, giving Gardner the funds to make a final payment on his Bowie, Maryland home.
"I've never heard of a case where a mortgage for such a large amount was satisfied with a fraudulent instrument -- an instrument that's so on-its-face fraudulent," said Paul Pelletier, who until a few months ago was a top-ranking official in the Justice Department's Fraud Section. "You'd be amazed at how many people try and pass off (fraudulent) stuff. But does it ever work? No, it rarely works."
And it almost didn't work for Gardner either. He made a similar request in 2008, which was rejected. Just two months later, he made an almost identical request - the one that actually succeeded. The only difference between the two was that the second request asked for marginally more money, said the Secret Service.
CitiMortage had little to say about the case, according to a report from Business Insider.
"We notify law enforcement authorities about matters of suspected fraud," spokesman Mark Rodgers told Business Insider reporters. "This case is currently under their purview, so we do not think it appropriate to provide details."
Gardner has been charged with one count of mail fraud and a spokeswoman for Paulson told Business Insider the former treasury secretary was unaware of the case. Public records say Gardner filed for bankruptcy in February and has since had to give up his Ford Expedition and Waldorf home.