Formerly incarcerated Queens woman looks to share ‘cautionary tale’

A Queens woman who was sentenced to more than a decade behind bars for bank fraud is doing whatever it takes to help young New Yorkers learn from her experience, even if that means opening up her darkest years to TV crews.

“A shortcut cost me (nearly) 12 and a half years of my life,” says Jamila Davis, 40, who became known as “the woman who brought down Lehman Brothers Bank” in 2008. “All shortcuts lead to the wrong route.”

At age 31, Davis’ life as a self-made real estate broker ended when she was ordered to serve time in Connecticut’s Federal Correctional Institution. After being released last spring, she says she sat down with a film crew to document her story for an episode of the upcoming CBS series “Pink Collar,” expected this summer.

“I want to use my story and my platform, and the street credibility I have at this point to let people know what they think glitters really isn’t always gold,” Davis says.

“‘Pink Collar’ shines light on women who committed pink collar crimes, told in a cautionary tale point of view,” she adds. CBS has not yet announced a release date for the series and declined to comment.

If Davis’ story so far sounds at all familiar, it’s because her 2008 case quickly became high-profile. It involved dealings with Manhattan’s Lehman Brothers and went to court in the midst of the financial crisis.

The New Yorker found herself on trial in New Jersey on conspiracy and fraud charges, including defrauding Lehman Brothers of more than $14 million in a mortgage loan scheme, according to documents.

Davis grew up in a middle-class home in Jamaica, Queens, and says she started out as an “A student” before traveling down the wrong path while in high school at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center.

“It was pretty much the good guy gone bad,” she recalls. “I started dating a drug dealer, rebelled against my parents and went on a crazy life chasing after fame.”

In her early 20s, Davis began looking for a quick-hit way to make a profit — one that didn’t involve illegal substances.

“I got into fixing credit and helping celebrities get cars and homes and that became my new life,” she says. “I had access to these people through the world of performing arts I had been in.”

With access to local celebrities, who Davis declines to name, she quickly developed a group of clients with readily acceptable cash in their pockets. Her self-made credit and mortgage business helped her rack up multimillion-dollar profits in five-plus years.

“A lot of them, this was newfound money, so they had money but no credit. I helped them get their first apartments and cars,” she says.

But how?

With the help of Brenda Rickard, also convicted in the case, Davis admits she used “straw buyers,” or middlemen, as a loophole or shortcut to helping her clients with poor credit nab high-price properties under what she calls “iffy mortgages.” But she claims the banks were aware of the risks.

According to multiple reports, the women provided fake documentation, such as pay stubs, to banks to obtain these loans.

On July 16, 2008, mere weeks before Lehman Brothers collapsed, she was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years behind bars, where she says her life “abruptly transformed.” She served just over nine years of her term before being released early in June 2017.

“It gave me that time I needed to correct my vision and get my life straight.”

While incarcerated, Davis published more than a dozen self-help books, founded an advocacy group for female prisoners and earned more than three college degrees — all of which was financially backed by her parents.

“I feel we all should be taught something and learn something while behind bars, but that’s not really provided,” she says.

Seeing a need for a more rehab programs behind bars, Davis is now spending her time readjusting to life in New York City by speaking up in hopes of inspiring a change within the system — and keeping young adults on the right track.

“I just want people to see that regardless of how bad you’ve messed up, never think your life is a mistake because you’ve made a mistake. You can get back up and win again,” she says.