Open Criminal Division Cases

United States v. Lee Bentley Farkas
Court Docket Number: 1:10-cr-200 (E.D. Virginia)

Court Assigned: This case is assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, at Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse, 401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, Virginia 22314.


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Criminal Charges: On June 15, 2010, Lee Bentley Farkas, the former chairman of a private mortgage lending company, Taylor, Bean & Whitaker (TBW), was charged in a 16-count indictment for his alleged role in a more than $1.9 billion fraud scheme that contributed to the failures of Colonial Bank, one of the 50 largest banks in the United States in 2009, and TBW, one of the largest privately held mortgage lending companies in the United States in 2009.

The indictment charges Farkas with one count of conspiracy to commit bank, wire and securities fraud; six counts of bank fraud; six counts of wire fraud; and three counts of securities fraud. The indictment also seeks approximately $22 million in forfeiture from Farkas

According to the indictment and a motion seeking Farkas’s detention filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Farkas and his co-conspirators allegedly engaged in a scheme to misappropriate more than $400 million from Colonial Bank’s Mortgage Warehouse Lending Division in Orlando, Fla., and approximately $1.5 billion from Ocala Funding, a mortgage lending facility controlled by TBW. Farkas and his co-conspirators allegedly misappropriated this money to cover TBW’s operating losses. According to the government motion seeking Farkas’s detention, the fraud scheme contributed to the failures of Colonial Bank and TBW. The indictment further alleges that Farkas and his co-conspirators committed wire and securities fraud in connection with their attempt to convince the United States government to provide Colonial Bank with approximately $553 million in TARP funds.

Court documents allege that the 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 his co-conspirators at TBW and Colonial Bank allegedly transferred money between accounts at Colonial Bank to hide the overdrafts. After the overdrafts grew to tens of millions of dollars, Farkas and his co-conspirators allegedly covered up the overdrafts and operating losses by causing Colonial Bank to purchase from TBW more than $400 million in what amounted to fake mortgage loan assets, including loans that TBW had already sold to other investors and fake interests in pools of loans. Farkas and his co-conspirators allegedly caused Colonial Bank to hold these purported assets on its books at their face value when in fact the mortgage loan assets were worthless.

Court documents also allege that Farkas and co-conspirators caused TBW to hide impaired-value mortgage loans that it was unable to sell. Through a series of sham transactions, the conspirators allegedly hid impaired-value loans on Colonial Bank’s books for a period of years in some cases.

According to court documents, Farkas and his co-conspirators at TBW also misappropriated hundreds of millions of dollars from Ocala Funding. Ocala Funding sold asset-backed commercial paper to financial institution investors, including Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas Bank. Ocala Funding, in turn, was required to maintain collateral in the form of cash and/or mortgage loans at least equal to the value of outstanding commercial paper.

The court documents allege that Farkas and his co-conspirators diverted cash from Ocala Funding to TBW to cover its operating losses, and as a result, created significant deficits in the amount of collateral Ocala Funding possessed to back the outstanding commercial paper. To cover up the diversions, the conspirators allegedly sent false information to Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas Bank and other financial institution investors to lead them to falsely believe that they had sufficient collateral backing the commercial paper they had purchased. According to court documents, in or about August 2009, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas Bank held approximately $1.68 billion in Ocala Funding commercial paper that had only approximately $150 million in cash and mortgage loans collateralizing it. When TBW failed in August 2009, the banks were unable to redeem their commercial paper for full value.

According to the indictment, in the fall of 2008, Colonial Bank’s holding company, Colonial BancGroup Inc., applied for $570 million in taxpayer funding through the Capital Purchase Program (CPP), a sub-program of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). In connection with the application, Colonial BancGroup submitted financial data and filings that included materially false information related to mortgage loan and securities assets held by Colonial Bank as a result of the fraudulent scheme described above.

According to the indictment, Treasury conditionally approved Colonial BancGroup’s TARP application contingent on the bank raising $300 million in private capital. Farkas and his co-conspirators allegedly led an effort to raise the $300 million. On or about March 31, 2009, the conspirators falsely informed Colonial BancGroup that they had identified sufficient investors to satisfy the TARP contingency. Farkas and his co-conspirators allegedly caused $30 million to be placed in escrow, falsely claiming it represented payments by investors, when in fact Farkas and another co-conspirator had diverted $25 million of the escrow amount from Ocala Funding. The indictment alleges that Farkas and his co-conspirators committed wire and securities fraud in connection with these misrepresentations. Ultimately, Colonial BancGroup did not receive any TARP funds.

The indictment also alleges that Farkas and his co-conspirators caused Colonial BancGroup to file materially false financial data with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding its assets in annual reports contained in Forms 10-K and quarterly filings contained in Forms 10-Q. Colonial BancGroup’s materially false financial data allegedly included overstated assets for mortgage loans that had little to no value that Farkas and his co-conspirators caused Colonial Bank to purchase. The indictment also alleges that Farkas and his co-conspirators caused TBW to submit materially false financial data to the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae) in order to extend TBW’s authority to issue Ginnie Mae mortgage-backed securities.

According to court documents, Farkas also personally misappropriated over $20 million from TBW and Colonial Bank.

In August 2009, the Alabama State Banking Department, Colonial Bank’s regulator, seized the bank and appointed the FDIC as receiver. Colonial BancGroup also filed for bankruptcy in August 2009.

For more information about the charges, please see below:
Press Release – June 16, 2010
Press Release – April 19, 2011
Press Release – June 30, 2011
Indictment
Notice of August 9th Hearing
Government's Filing with Respect to Restitution
Preliminary Order of Forfeiture dated June 30, 2011
Order Rescheduling the Trial Date
Order of Release

The information on this website will be updated as new developments arise in the case. If you have any questions, please call the Victim Assistance Line toll-free at (888) 549-3945 or email us at victimassistance.fraud@usdoj.gov.

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Presumption of Innocence: It is important to keep in mind that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and that presumption requires both the court and our office to take certain steps to ensure that justice is served.

Crime Victims’ Rights Act and Right to Retain Counsel: The Crime Victims’ Rights Act (18 U.S.C. § 3771) applies only to victims of the counts charged in federal court, and thus individuals may not be able to exercise all of these rights if the crime of which the individual is a victim was not charged. Section 377I(c)(2) of this Act requires that we advise you that you have the right to retain counsel. Although the statute specifically sets forth your right to seek advice of an attorney with regard to your rights under the statute, there is no requirement that you retain counsel. The Government may not recommend any specific counsel, nor can the Government (or the Court) pay for counsel to represent you. Government attorneys represent the United States.

If you elect to obtain counsel to represent your interests, please have your attorney notify this office in writing at: U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section, 10th & Constitution Avenue, NW, Bond Building, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20530, Attention: Victim Witness Unit; fax: (202) 514-3708; or email: victimassistance.fraud@usdoj.gov. If you elect not to retain counsel to represent your interests, you do not need to do anything.

Plea Agreements: Please be aware that many criminal cases are resolved by plea agreement between the Department of Justice and the defendant. You should also know that it is not unusual for a defendant to seek to negotiate a plea agreement shortly before trial is scheduled to begin. Plea agreements can be made at any time and as late as the morning of trial, leaving little or no opportunity to provide notice to you of the date and time of the plea hearing. If the court schedules a plea hearing in this case, we will use our best efforts to notify you of available information as soon as practicable. If you want to inform the prosecutor of your views regarding potential plea agreements, or any other aspect of the case, please contact the prosecutor assigned to this case or call the Victim Assistance Line toll-free at (888) 549-3945 or email us at victimassistance.fraud@usdoj.gov.

Updated June 5, 2017

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