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Bush orders pardon re-examined

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  • NEW: Lawyer for homeowners suing Toussie said pardon was "bitter pill"
  • Toussie was involved in mortgage scheme in New York
  • Bush re-examining pardon in light of new information
  • Bush learned Toussie's father made contributions to Republicans
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(CNN) -- President Bush on Wednesday ordered one of 19 presidential pardons granted earlier in the week to be re-examined.

President Bush ordered the pardon of Isaac R. Toussie to be re-examined.

President Bush ordered the pardon of Isaac R. Toussie to be re-examined.

The pardon was for Isaac R. Toussie, a 36-year-old New York developer who pleaded guilty in 2001 to making false statements in a Long Island mortgage fraud scheme.

Toussie and his father, also a developer, had previously been accused of conspiring with lenders and others to build and sell substandard homes -- a charge they denied.

The Toussies are also defendants in a lawsuit filed in New York federal court on behalf of more than 400 minority home buyers who allege a conspiracy involving racial steering, racketeering and fraud, said attorney Peter Seidman.

Seidman, a partner in a law firm representing the plaintiffs, said he was "very pleased" with Bush's order for a review.

"[The pardon] was a bitter pill for the home purchasers to swallow," he said.

According to a senior Bush administration official, the White House learned more about Toussie's case Tuesday night -- only hours after announcing his pardon. Video Watch why Bush ordered the review »

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Specifically, the White House learned, according to the official, "additional information about the nature of fraud [Toussie] carried out."

The White House also learned Toussie's father made numerous contributions to leading Republican politicians.

In 2008, Toussie's father donated almost $40,000 to Arizona Sen. John McCain, Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, and Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor.

"Based on information that has subsequently come to light, the president has directed the [Justice Department's] pardon attorney not to execute and deliver a grant of clemency to Mr. Toussie," White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said in a written statement.

"The pardon attorney has not provided a recommendation on Mr. Toussie's case because it was filed less than five years from completion of his sentence. The president believes that the pardon attorney should have an opportunity to review this case before a decision on clemency is made."

Bradford Berenson, Toussie's lawyer, issued a statement saying, "Isaac Toussie is deeply grateful that both the counsel to the president and the president himself found Mr. Toussie's pardon application to have sufficient merit to be granted.

"Mr. Toussie looks forward to the pardon attorney's expeditious review of the application and remains confident that the pardon attorney will agree with the president and the White House counsel."

Under Justice Department guidelines, an application for a presidential pardon will not be considered by the department's pardon attorney until a convict has been out of prison for five years.

Toussie was sentenced in September 2003 to a five-month prison sentence, as well as three years of supervised release.

Seidman said the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Toussies allege that the quality of construction in homes they bought on Staten Island was inferior to that in the model homes they had been shown to secure their purchase.

They also allege that their applications were coded by race, a violation of civil rights laws, and that they were steered away from racially integrated neighborhoods to segregated neighborhoods, he said.

"I'm baffled that Toussie was selected as a candidate for a pardon in the first place," Seidman said. "So I don't know what I would say about the re-examination, other than why in the first place they thought he was worthy."

The Toussies deny the allegations in the lawsuit.

CNN's attempts to reach Toussie's lawyers on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

A Bush administration official noted it is rare for a pardon to be reversed.

Bush's 191 pardons and nine commutations are far fewer than those granted by Presidents Clinton and Reagan in either of their two-term administrations.

The Presidential pardon lists are being closely monitored in the final weeks of the Bush administration, particularly to see whether former vice presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby will be granted the presidential favor.

Other notables who asked for pardons include former Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham, a Republican from California, who was convicted of receiving bribes; publishing executive Conrad Black, convicted of fraud; former junk bond salesman Michael Milken; former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers, convicted of accounting fraud; and Taliban American John Walker Lindh.

Charles Winters, who died almost 25 years ago, was one of the 19 people given a pardon earlier in the week. His son worked towards a presidential pardon for his dad, who had helped smuggle weapons to Jews fighting in what was then Palestine in the late 1940s.

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A Protestant from Boston, Massachusetts, Winters spent 18 months behind bars. He was the only U.S. citizen to serve time for helping fly weapons to Jews struggling to create Israel.

A 20th person received a commutation of a life sentence for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. That individual, Reed Raymond Prior, was ordered released from prison in February 2009. He will have served more than 12 years.

All About George W. BushMethamphetamineLewis Libby

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