Businessman admits to defrauding couple of nearly $1 million

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FARMINGTON — Local businessman Bobby Willis has admitted in federal court to defrauding a San Juan County couple of nearly $1 million as part of a real estate scheme.

Willis, 45, of Kirtland, pleaded guilty this morning to two counts of wire fraud as part of plea agreement that includes a recommended maximum sentence of two years in federal prison, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

The plea agreement also requires Willis to pay restitution of $995,000 to Theresa and Joseph Lee as part of the fraudulent contract.

Willis was indicted on Oct. 20, 2015, on allegations he convinced the Lees to purchase a 5 percent interest in a real estate company for $1 million and then spent $995,000 of the $1 million.

The couple was told the company would not see returns for its first five years and the money would be reinvested in property, according to The Daily Times archives.

Willis also claimed he and other individuals had invested millions of dollars in the real estate company.

Willis admitted he developed a plan to get the Lees to "give him their money under false pretenses," according to the plea agreement.

More: Willis' trial on wire fraud delayed until April

The $995,000 was spent by Willis and his then-wife Carrie, and the money was not invested in any real estate, according to court documents.

He also told the court when the Lees asked about their investment, "he had associates falsely assure" the couple that their investment had grown in value.

The two counts of wire fraud stem from $900,000 transferred on Oct. 25, 2010, from Cooney Real Estate Investments to an account controlled by the Bobby L. Willis and Carrie S. Willis Trust.

The second transfer of $95,000 involving the same accounts took place on Nov. 18, 2010.

A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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