Farkas could get 385 years in prison if DOJ has its way
The Justice Department requested former Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Chairman Lee Farkas receive a sentence of the maximum 385 years in prison for orchestrating the $2.9 billion fraud scheme that lasted from 2002 to August 2009. The DOJ filed a memo with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Thursday requesting the term. A sentencing hearing for Farkas is scheduled for June 30. Farkas and six other co-conspirators spent the better part of the last decade sweeping funds and covering overdrafts between TBW and the facilities at Colonial Bank and Ocala Funding. All three companies failed in 2009. TBW, based in Ocala, Fla., originated, serviced and sold mortgages to Freddie Mac and relied on Colonial and the TBW subsidiary Ocala Funding to finance the loans. But some of these mortgages didn't exist and previously foreclosed homes and nonexistent loans served as collateral in some securities, according to court documents. Farkas and the co-conspirators falsified documents to show TBW was selling the loans, and they used these phantom proceeds to cover financial "holes" in TBW accounts at Colonial. The Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program discovered the fraud when Farkas filed a false application with TARP officials on behalf of Colonial for a $553 million bailout in 2009. The co-conspirators all plead guilty in April and testified against Farkas. He was found guilty after a 10-day trial of 14 counts of bank, wire fraud and filing false statements with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The court also found Farkas took more than $40 million from TBW and Colonial to fund his chain of restaurants and make extravagant purchases of homes and even a helicopter. "A very lengthy sentence, particularly one at the statutory maximum sentence of 385 years, will certainly draw the attention of corporate executives and will provide necessary and substantial general deterrence," according to the DOJ memo. As for the co-conspirators, 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. Justice Department attorneys showed in court the co-conspirators took little to no money for themselves, aside from the occasional loan from Farkas they did not have to pay back. Instead, the prosecution showed Farkas time and again manipulated the others to keep the scheme going when they threatened to go to regulators or law enforcement. "If you make good on your threats, the meltdown will surely be unpleasant," Farkas wrote to Kissick in an email, according to court documents. "As the court has noted at each of the sentencings in this case thus far, Farkas’ co- conspirators are generally decent people who made terrible decisions and failed to extricate themselves from a fraud scheme spiraling out of control," according to the DOJ memo. "Farkas can hardly be included in this category. For years, he manipulated his co-conspirators and others to his personal advantage." Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.