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Federal suit alleges 'brazen' fraud at Countrywide

Lender's owner decries 'simply false' accusations

By Christina Rexrode

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 24 2012 8:43 p.m. MDT

For example, one loan application, for a home in Miami, said that the borrower was an airline sales representative earning $15,500 per month, when the borrower worked for a temp agency and earned $2,666 per month. The borrower defaulted within seven months, the suit said.

A loan application for a home in Birmingham, Ala., failed to disclose $81,000 in debt that the borrower was carrying. That borrower defaulted within a year, the suit said.

The lawsuit accused Countrywide, and later Bank of America, of selling thousands of Hustle loans to Fannie and Freddie. The lawsuit says that that the Hustle program continued through 2009.

According to the lawsuit, Fannie and Freddie don't review loans before they purchased them. Instead, they relied on banks' statements that the loans met certain qualifications.

Bharara said the lawsuit was the first civil fraud suit brought by the Justice Department concerning loans later sold to Fannie and Freddie. When Fannie and Freddie collapsed, investors were wiped out.

Taxpayers have spent $170 billion to keep Fannie and Freddie afloat, and it could cost $260 billion more to prop the companies through 2014 after subtracting dividend payments to taxpayers, according to the government.

The lawsuit says that Fannie and Freddie suffered $1 billion in losses because they had to pay for Countrywide's defaulted loans. The lawsuit also complains that Bank of America is refusing to buy back mortgages "even where the loans admittedly contained material defects or even fraudulent misrepresentations."

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