FBI hunts 46 y.o. Fenton man Ronnie Duke running one of largest mortgage fraud schemes in country

Ronnie Duke facing new charges for fleeing

FENTON, Mich. (WXYZ) - He owes more than $94 million and he's on the run.  Now the FBI is asking for your help in tracking down Ronnie Edward Duke.


Duke brought down his own mortgage fraud empire by cutting deals with the feds.  For years, he showed up for every court date, and ultimately pleaded guilty.

But when it came time to show up to federal prison, Duke disappeared.

Fast cars, helicopters, race horses, and high-performance power boats.

Those were just some of the ways Duke and his cohorts lived the high-life, all while pocketing millions from fraudulent home loans.

FBI Special Agents say the 46-year-old from Fenton ran the one of largest mortgage fraud schemes in the country.  It involved more than 450 bad loans, over 100 straw buyers, and about 180 different properties in Southeast Michigan.

In 2007, Duke suddenly turned himself in, giving the FBI enough intelligence to arrest 15 others as part of a massive case.  They all pleaded guilty, and all of them are serving their time -- except for the ringleader.

Last April, Judge Julian Abele Cook, Jr. ordered Duke to pay $94 million dollars in restitution, plus a $1 million fine.  Cook also sentenced Duke to 13 years in prison.

The feds asked that Duke be put behind bars right away.  But the judge – who relies on a pre-sentence investigation – saw nothing in that report that showed Duke was a flight risk.

Judge Cook did increase his bond and let Duke wrap up his affairs before reporting to prison in West Virginia.  But Duke never showed and seems to have vanished.

"This is a top priority for us,"said Detroit FBI Special Agent in Charge Paul Abbate.

Abbate told 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo that mortgage fraud can destroy communities by leaving properties abandoned and blighted and Duke needs to serve his prison term.

"It's all driven by his selfishness, greed, and he bears an individual responsibility for that. And we want to capture him," said Abbate.

Dave Boersma is fighting blight from this orphaned home in his neighborhood in Independence Township.  The house was part of Duke's scheme and it's been vacant for 8 years.  The once elegant home is now over-run with shrubbery and attracts pests.

"Anyone in direct proximity of that house, it's going to affect the value of their home," said Boersma. "It's just sitting.  It needs a new roof.  And it's very sad.  It's a beautiful home."

Boersma has been trying to buy the home to fix it up and sell it, but he says the fraud scheme left the chain of ownership so murky,  it's become impossible to rescue the house.

"Every bit of research we did, came up with: there's no way to buy it… You shouldn't be able to get away with something like that," said Boersma.

But so far, it seems Duke is getting away with it.

There has been no sign of him at his former house in Fenton where he once stored his luxury vehicles before the feds seized them.

"We're not going to stop pursuing him," said FBI SAC Abbate.  He says they are chasing down leads on Duke's whereabouts, but the FBI wants to know if you have seen him.

"We will capture him and bring him to justice and make him pay for the crimes that he's committed," said Abbate.

The FBI is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the capture of Ronnie Duke.  If you know where he is, please call the FBI at 313-965-2323.  You can also email the FBI – CLICK HERE TO EMAIL .

While many of Ronnie Duke's vehicles and assets were seized, he was last known to have a 1997 GMC Jimmy registered to him, with a MI plate of CGS 8574.  He was also last seen driving in a black early-1960s Chevrolet SS.

Please call the FBI if you have seen those vehicles.

If you have a story for Heather Catallo, please email hcatallo@wxyz.com or call 248-827-4473.

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