Main Line developer charged with defrauding banks

Posted: October 20, 2012

A prominent Main Line developer was charged yesterday by the federal government in a fraud scheme in which he allegedly induced several local banks to lend him more than $13.3 million.

Michael Pouls, 50, devised a scheme in May 2007 to obtain bank loans from National Penn Bank and the former Wilmington Trust Bank, federal prosecutors said. They said he faked statements showing he had $28.5 million in TD Ameritrade accounts to use as collateral for the loans while in reality he had $3,000.

His attorney, Lisa Mathewson, said Thursday that Pouls had already admitted wrongdoing.

"Mr. Pouls accepts responsibility for his wrongs, which he ceased voluntarily long ago and has been working hard to rectify," Mathewson said. "His motive was never to line his own pockets, but to save his business during an unprecedented real estate downturn."

Pouls worked out of an opulent Gladwyne estate, once considered the most expensive in Lower Merion Township, relying on loans and lines of credit to finance his real estate projects.

Pouls' six-bedroom, 8 1/2-bath mansion was called the "princess palace" by his family and was featured on a 2009 episode of MTV's Teen Cribs.

It was put up for sale this year for $17 million, but the price was later knocked down to $6.9 million. More recently, the real estate blog Curbed Philadelphia says, the house was listed for $3.2 million.

Pouls' troubles appeared not to have stood in the way of his philanthropic efforts.

The father of two daughters pledged a multimillion-dollar gift in 2007 to the exclusive Baldwin School for girls intended for a new sports facility. The state-of-the-art complex was completed in 2009.

The gift would have gone unnoticed outside the rarefied world of private-school philanthropy, but allegations surfaced of the Pouls family's requiring the dismissal of a teacher before the gift was presented.

The Poulses had complained to Baldwin officials that the teacher had yelled at and humiliated their 7-year-old daughter.

The teacher, Patricia Tollin, then 67, sued the school for not renewing her contract the following year and filed suit against Pouls and his wife, Sheryl, saying the couple had caused her to lose her job.

The Pouls family countersued the teacher, alleging defamation, invasion of privacy, assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The entire mess was settled out of court but not before garnering headlines.

In 2009, Pouls' older daughter led MTV through the family's 15,300-square-foot "fairy-tale house." Cameras lingered on an indoor pool with water jets to body-surf, elevators, a private ice cream parlor, and an astronomical observatory.

Between the Baldwin imbroglio and 2011, prosecutors said, Pouls was plotting to defraud the banks.

He allegedly sent bogus statements to the banks showing he had $22,600,000 and $5,900,000 in stocks and money market funds in his trading accounts, but the accounts had only $3,000, documents indicated.

Charges filed Thursday include one count each of wire fraud and bank fraud, and two counts of making false statements to obtain a loan.

If the government proves its case, it will move for forfeiture of Pouls' property equal to $13,350,000, prosecutors said.

The feds may find it difficult to collect. In addition to millions in liens against him from the banks he allegedly defrauded, the IRS is dunning him for at least $7.5 million.


Contact Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or samwood@phillynews.com.

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