Lee Farkas, the former chairman of failed mortgage lender Taylor, Bean & Whitaker, was sentenced to 30 years in prison and forced to forfeit $38.5 million Thursday for orchestrating a $2.9 billion fraud scheme over the last decade. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia convicted Farkas of 14 counts of bank, wire and securities fraud in April. But the sentencing was a fraction of the 385 years requested by the Justice Department. Based in Ocala, Fla., TBW originated, serviced and sold mortgages in pools to Freddie Mac. Once the 12th largest mortgage lender in the U.S., TBW relied on financing from Colonial Bank and the TBW subsidiary Ocala Funding to fund the loans. From 2002 through August 2009, Farkas and a group of six other conspirators swept funds and covered overdrafts between TBW and its funding facilities at Colonial and Ocala. When the sweeping became too complex and the hole became too large, growing to more than $500 million at one point, the conspirators began selling mortgages that didn’t exist. According to court documents, previously foreclosed homes and nonexistent loans served as the collateral on the majority of securities issued. When Colonial put Farkas in charge of obtaining a Troubled Asset Relief Program funds during the financial crisis, the Special Inspector General for TARP caught on to the scheme when Farkas filed a false application for $553 million in bailouts. All three companies failed in 2009. The co-conspirators plead guilty to their charges, and they will serve significantly less time in prison. Paul Allen, former chief executive of TBW and head of Ocala, was sentenced to 40 months. TBW Treasurer Desiree Brown was sentenced to 72 months and former TBW President Raymond Bowman faces 30 months in prison. Colonial Vice President Catherine Kissick, who ran the facility that funded TBW loans, was sentenced to eight years. The Colonial facility’s former operations supervisor was sentenced to three months in prison. Freddie Mac entered into an agreement with TBW creditors this week to settle the mess. “Lee Farkas’ boundless greed ultimately led not to a life of luxury, but to a prison cell,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer. “Mr. Farkas orchestrated a fraud of staggering proportions, the effects of which are still being felt by the thousands of former employees of TBW and Colonial Bank, and shareholders of Colonial BancGroup. From a $28 million private jet and vacation homes in Maine and Key West, to expensive antique cars and restaurants, Mr. Farkas plundered his company and Colonial Bank to prop up his failing business and to feed his ostentatious lifestyle. When greed and risky behavior lead individuals to break the law, we will do everything in our power to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible.” For a detailed look inside the Farkas scheme, pick up the July issue of HousingWire Magazine. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.
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