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Former mortgage exec convicted for fraud

By AFP
April 20, 2011

Lee Bentley Farkas

The former head of a large private mortgage lender was convicted Tuesday in a $2.9-billion fraud scheme that contributed to the failure of his company and of one of the top 25 US banks in 2009, officials said.

Lee Bentley Farkas, the former chairman of a private mortgage lending company, Taylor, Bean & Whitaker (TBW), was convicted in a Virginia federal court of conspiracy to commit bank, wire and securities fraud and related charges, the Justice Department said.

According to prosecutors, Farkas and his co-conspirators engaged in a scheme that misappropriated more than $1.4 billion from Colonial Bank and $1.5 billion from Ocala Funding, a mortgage lending facility controlled by TBW.

The fraud scheme contributed to the failures of Colonial Bank and TBW during the global financial crisis that followed the meltdown in the US housing market.

“Lee Farkas, the former chairman of TBW, masterminded one of the largest bank fraud schemes in history,” said Assistant Attorney Lanny General Breuer.

“His shockingly brazen scheme poured fuel on the fire of the financial crisis. It not only led to the downfall of TBW, one of the largest private mortgage lending companies in the United States, but also contributed to the failure of one of the country’s largest commercial banks.

“Mr Farkas may have thought he could steal nearly $3 billion from investors and taxpayers and sail into the sunset. But now a jury has told him otherwise, and he must face the severe consequences.”

At sentencing, scheduled for July 1, Farkas faces a maximum prison term of 30 years for the conspiracy charge and for each count of bank fraud, 20 years for each count of wire fraud, 30 years for each count of wire fraud affecting a financial institution and 25 years for each securities fraud count.

Farkas was taken into custody after the conviction.

Six others have pleaded guilty for their roles in the fraud scheme from TBW and Colonial.

According to court documents and evidence, the fraud scheme began in 2002, when Farkas and his co-conspirators ran overdrafts in TBW bank accounts at Colonial Bank in order to cover TBW’s cash shortfalls.

Farkas and others transferred money between accounts at Colonial Bank to hide the overdrafts, which grew to more than $100 million.

The fraud attempted to cover up the overdrafts and operating losses by causing Colonial Bank to purchase from TBW over time more than $1.5 billion in what amounted to worthless mortgage loan assets.

Some of the assets sold by Ocala Funding were bought by institution investors, including Germany’s Deutsche Bank and French-based BNP Paribas Bank.

Copyright © 2011 AFP