Former Columbus Mayor Michael Eisenga pleaded guilty Thursday to bank fraud for actions he took to secure a $6.9 million loan for a grocery store development in Columbus that he now admits were fraudulent.
“Unfortunately, it’s all true, your honor,” Eisenga, 49, told U.S. District Judge William Conley.
“What I did, your honor, was I created a fake lease showing that there was a lease between a third-party grocery chain and the LLC that owned the grocery store building,” Eisenga said at his plea hearing, held by videoconference. “And I used that to obtain financing from Alliant Credit Union. I knew at the time that I did that that the lease was a false lease and that I did not, in fact, have a lease with that grocery store chain.”
According to an indictment issued against Eisenga in October, Eisenga claimed to Alliant, of Rolling Meadows, Illinois, that the grocery store property was under lease to Festival Foods, and that the lease was guaranteed by Supervalu Holdings Inc. But neither representation was true.
The loan was signed on March 3, 2017. Alliant told investigators it would not have issued the loan to Eisenga without the lease and the guarantee.
Eisenga’s company later defaulted on the loan, and a subsequent lease cancellation agreement he gave Alliant, purportedly canceling Festival Food’s lease, was not genuine either, the indictment states.
Eisenga, who faces a sentence anywhere from probation to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, will remain free pending a sentencing hearing set for June 23 before Conley. Also to be determined is the amount he will pay in restitution and forfeitures.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Duchemin has not indicated what sentence she plans to seek for Eisenga, who is also known as a major Republican donor who had once enlisted GOP legislators to change a state law that would have helped reduce his child support payments.
The grocery store matter was also the subject of a civil forfeiture lawsuit in Columbia County Circuit Court. Eisenga also filed bankruptcy petitions for himself and his company that were subsequently dismissed.
PHOTOS OF THE YEAR: A LOOK BACK AT THE STATE JOURNAL’S TOP PHOTOS OF 2020