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$70-Million Bank Fraud Catches Up to Two Businessmen

SAN DIEGO - Two former principals at a now-bankrupt company they operated pleaded guilty Friday to charges stemming from a $70 million bank fraud conspiracy and tax evasion scheme.

Sterling Wayne Pirtle, 72, and Ronald Allen Fisher, 68, both pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and tax evasion.

The defendants admitted they engaged in a scheme through Commercial Money Center that involved the sale of pools of fraudulent sub-prime equipment leases to financial institutions.

According to the plea agreements, Pirle and Fisher included $70 million worth of fraudulent leases in the pools they sold to the financial institutions.

Before declaring bankruptcy, CMC obtained more than $300 million from financial institutions through its sale of sub-prime equipment lease pools.

The tax evasion counts stemmed from unreported income each defendant earned at CMC. Both Pirtle and Fisher admitted they evaded payment of about $1 million each in personal income taxes on the millions of dollars they received from CMC.

Purported to be Ron Fisher's gulf front home and yacht.

Fisher's son, Mark, pleaded guilty to the same charges on March 23, admitting his role in the conspiracy and that he evaded payment of about $500,000 in personal taxes on nearly $2 million in unreported income from CMC.

The defendant's daughter, Kelly Fisher, pleaded guilty to tax evasion in June 2007 and was sentenced to prison.

Pirtle and Ronald Fisher are scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 23 by U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan.

Mark Fisher's sentencing is set for Nov. 30.