A mortgage lender known for full-page newspaper ads in May to solicit business from homeowners facing foreclosure and its television infomercials touting FHA-backed loans is the target of a Federal civil suit and an ongoing investigation for mortgage fraud.
The Department of Justice filed suit this week against Lend America, a mortgage lender located in Melville, Long Island, seeking a court-ordered injunction to stop the company from making loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Yesterday Judge Joseph F. Bianco denied the government’s request for an injunction but the Federal civil suit will continue.
HUD’s alleges 12 violations, including approving loans that did not meet minimum credit requirements, failing to adequately document income and closing funds, omitting liabilities from the underwriting analysis, and approving loans with ratios that exceeded HUD standards. The complaint alleges that Lend America falsely certified to HUD that borrowers who received over $14 million in loans met HUD’s lending requirements when, in fact, the defendants knew they did not.
The complaint also seeks relief against Lend America’s Executive Vice President and Chief Business Strategist, Michael Ashley. He pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced in 1996 after the government targeted Liberty Mortgage Banking, run by his father. He was given probation and ordered to repay $30,000 to Freddie Mac.
“Any FHA-approved lender that seeks to do business with us must follow our standards, it’s just that simple,” said FHA Commissioner David Stevens. “If we determine that our partners are not playing by the rules, they’ll cease being our partners.”
HUD also notified four of the lender’s underwriters that it was suspending and possibly proposing debarments for their actions in connection with these violations. The Justice Department is also considering imposing civil money penalties against the four underwriters.
Earlier this year Lend America spent at least $500,000 a month on advertising. Its main push: cable TV infomercials featuring fake anchors for the “Mortgage Loan Network.” They explain the program and pitch Lend America. In May it placed full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and other leading newspapers promoting Federal foreclosure programs such as Hope for Homeowners and Making Home Affordable.
Lend America was the first lender in the country to receive approval from HUD to underwrite, close and insure H4H loan transactions without prior HUD review. Lend America has originated some 11,300 FHA-backed loans over the last two years, ranking them No. 22 among FHA lenders by volume.
“Fraudulent lending practices that compromise the integrity of the FHA mortgage insurance program and contribute to the alarming increase in loan defaults and housing foreclosures will not be tolerated,” stated United States Attorney Campbell. “We will use all means at our disposal to stop those who engage in such activity.”