Citigroup pays $158M to settle mortgage fraud

Posted Feb. 16, 2012, at 10:15 p.m.

NEW YORK — Citigroup has agreed to pay $158.3 million to settle claims that its mortgage unit duped the U.S. government into insuring risky mortgage loans for over six years.

The government said Wednesday that Citi Mortgage certified 30,000 mortgages for insurance provided by the Federal Housing Agency and submitted many certifications that were “knowingly or recklessly false.”

More than a third of those mortgage loans went into default, resulting in millions of dollars in losses for the government because of the insurance claims.

“For far too long, lenders treated (the government) insurance of their mortgages like they were playing with house money,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

As part of the civil fraud settlement, Citi accepted responsibility for failing to comply with government requirements and submitting certifications that were fraudulent.

Wednesday’s payments are in addition to the $1.8 billion Citigroup has to pay in connection with the $25 billion mortgage loan settlement announced last week by the Justice Department and the nation’s top mortgage lenders.

2 former execs sentenced in health care fraud

CHICAGO — Two former executives of health care company Canopy Financial Inc. who pleaded guilty to defrauding investors out of $75 million have been sentenced to prison.

Former President and CEO Jeremy Blackburn was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in prison. Former Chief Technology Officer Anthony Banas received a 13-year sentence. Both men pleaded guilty in 2010 to one wire fraud count.

According to court documents, Blackburn and Banas used false information about Canopy’s financial condition to obtain about $75 million from several investors in 2009. They also allegedly pocketed about $18 million from accounts meant to pay people’s medical bills.

The then-Chicago-based company declared bankruptcy in 2009.

The 34-year-old Banas is to report to prison April 18. The 38-year-old Blackburn begins serving his sentence March 20.

SEC accuses investor In Ohio of fraud

WASHINGTON — An Ohio investment manager is in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission for the second time in three years.

First, he was accused of defrauding clients and was ordered to give up his ill-gotten gains.

Then, in a case filed Wednesday, he was accused of paying the SEC using $632,000 taken from a client.

That’s not all.

The SEC says Robert Pinkas, 58, of Shaker Heights, Ohio, misappropriated $173,000 of client money to pay his legal expenses from the earlier case. Pinkas also violated an order from the earlier case restricting his work in the investment business, the SEC says.

The SEC filed an administrative action against Pinkas Wednesday accusing him of willfully violating the law.

Pinkas denies that he did anything wrong but is not in a position to address the allegations because he is hospitalized and seriously ill, said his lawyer, Stephen Sozio.

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