The Washington Post

$2B mortgage fraud trial to begin in Va.

The trial of a Florida man accused of masterminding a nearly $2 billion mortgage fraud scheme is expected to start Monday in a federal courtroom in Alexandria.

Lee Bentley Farkas was the former chief executive and chairman of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker, an Ocala, Fla.-based company that was once one of the nation’s largest privately held mortgage companies. The fraud case against him and several co-conspirators is one of the largest to emerge from the crisis that brought the nation’s financial system to the brink of collapse.

In June, the Justice Department accused Farkas of committing a $1.9 billion fraud scheme against investors and the federal government that led to the demise of his firm and Colonial Bank in Alabama, one of the nation’s largest regional banks. Farkas was charged with 16 counts in an indictment.

Several other people who worked at Taylor Bean, including the former treasurer and former president, have already pleaded guilty to various counts of fraud.

Prosecutors have alleged that Taylor Bean acted as a middleman between lenders and investors. The firm borrowed money from Colonial Bank to buy FHA-insured home loans. Taylor Bean would pool the loans into securities and sell them to investors. The Government National Mortgage Association would then guarantee those securities.

But when Taylor Bean began having significant cash flow problems, the government says, Farkas and co-conspirators allegedly covered the shortfalls with money from Colonial Bank. They misappropriated more than $1 billion to cover Taylor Bean’s operating losses, authorities said.

Dana Hedgpeth is a Post reporter, working the early morning, reporting on traffic, crime and other local issues.

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