Tuesday, April 19, 2011
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A jury on Tuesday convicted the majority owner of what had been one of the nation's largest mortgage companies on all 14 counts in a $2.9 billion fraud trial that officials have said is one of the most significant prosecutions to arise from the nation's financial crisis.
Prosecutors said Lee Farkas led a fraud scheme of staggering proportions for roughly eight years as chairman of Florida-based Taylor Bean & Whitaker. The fraud not only caused the company's 2009 collapse and put its 2,000 employees out of work, but also contributed to the collapse of Alabama-based Colonial Bank, the sixth-largest bank failure in U.S. history.
The jury returned its verdict late Tuesday after more than a full day of deliberations.
Colonial and two other major banks -- Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas -- were collectively cheated out of nearly $3 billion, prosecutors estimated. Farkas and his cohorts -- six of whom entered guilty pleas to related charges and testified against him at the two-week trial in U.S. District Court -- also tried to fraudulently obtain more than $500 million in taxpayer-funded relief from the government's bank bailout program, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
While TARP at one point gave conditional approval to a payment of roughly $550 million, ultimately neither Taylor Bean nor Colonial received any TARP money, and investigators from that office, along with the FBI and other agencies, helped uncover the fraud.