(Updates with allegations in fifth paragraph.)
Nov. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Allied Home Mortgage Capital Corp., which last year claimed to be the biggest closely held mortgage broker in the U.S., was sued by federal authorities for alleged fraudulent lending practices.
The U.S. sued Allied, founder and Chief Executive Officer Jim Hodge and Jeanne Stell, Allied’s chief compliance officer. The government claims one-third of the 112,324 loans originated by Allied from 2001 to through 2010 defaulted, forcing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to pay $834 million in insurance claims, according to a complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan today.
“Allied has profited for years as one of the nation’s largest FHA lenders by engaging in reckless mortgage lending, flouting the requirements of the FHA mortgage insurance program, and repeatedly lying about its compliance,” the U.S. said in the complaint. “In the past decade, Allied has originated loans out of hundreds of branches it never disclosed to HUD.”
The government, represented by the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan, claims Hodge created a “culture of corruption” and used offshore compliance employees who didn’t even know what mortgages were. The U.S. is seeking triple damages from Allied under the federal False Claims Act.
Allied, based in Houston, opened more than 2,000 branches in the U.S., many of which originated HUD-insured mortgages while lacking the authority to do so, according to the complaint. Allied, at Hodge’s direction, hid the source of the loans originated by these “shadow branches” by making it appear they came from approved branches, the government claimed.
Hodge and his wife, Kathy Hodge, also operated real-estate and life-insurance businesses out of the branch offices, the U.S. said. When one employee complained about the practice, Hodge “rebuffed their concerns and told them to ‘get on the team,’” according to the complaint.
Allied covered up the loan default rates at its branches, the government claimed. Stell monitored default rates, applying for new HUD identification numbers to clear the slate for branches where default rates approached double the local average, the U.S. said in the complaint.
Hodge and his wife each own 49.5 percent of Allied, according to the complaint. The remaining 1 percent is owned by Jim Hodge’s son, Jamey Hodge. From Sept. 26, 1991, through the end of 2010, Allied issued HUD-insured mortgage loans under the department’s loan correspondent program, the government said.
A 2000 HUD audit of two branch offices in Arizona found that Allied was operating 13 unapproved satellite offices, one of which originated 221 loans in 24 months, the U.S. said.
By 2006, HUD required that every office originating or processing Federal Housing Administration loans be approved by the agency. Allied continued to operate satellite branches, the U.S. claimed.
In applying for a new HUD ID, the U.S. said, Stell allegedly changed the address of the branch slightly, by adding a suite number or changing “Street” to “St.”, so that the FHA system couldn’t detect that it was issuing multiple IDs to Allied branches. In late 2010 and early 2011, Allied switched all of its remaining approved branches from the ownership of Allied to Allied Home Mortgage, thereby obtaining new IDs for the branches.
Allied employed individuals with criminal convictions in violations of HUD and FHA requirements, the U.S. said. Washington State banned a Spokane branch manager from working as a mortgage broker in 2006 after he was convicted of stealing clients’ money and laundering it, according to the complaint.
That same year, Arizona denied a broker’s license in Tuscon because a branch manager was previously convicted of stealing money while working as a Bank of America Corp. bank teller, the government said.
Allied’s compliance department in 2007 shut down a Conyers, Georgia, branch after verifying that the manager was convicted of identity theft. In September 2009, Allied applied for a New York broker’s license for a man convicted to distributing methamphetamines, the U.S. said.
The case is U.S. v. Allied Home Mortgage Corp., 11-cv-5443, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
--Editors: Mary Romano, Stephen Farr
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