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Workers Say Lender Ran 'Boiler Rooms'

Critics say Ameriquest, touted as an industry model, fabricated data, forged documents and hid fees. The company denies wrongdoing.

February 04, 2005|By Mike Hudson and E. Scott Reckard | Special to The Times

Employees who put up big numbers, they said, were rewarded with trips to Hawaii and the Super Bowl and, in some cases, with $100,000-plus salaries. No matter how many loans they peddled, however, the pressure rarely eased, ex-employees said.

"I don't think there's a day that went by that I wasn't told I was going to be fired," recalled Omar Ross, who said he was a top producer when he worked for Ameriquest in Grand Rapids in 2003 and 2004, quitting the company that year. "I was told I was going to be fired at least 200 times."

Supervisors didn't let up even when he was meeting his quota, Ross said. "They would tell everybody: 'Omar did 10. How come everybody else can't do 10?' Then in private they would turn around and say: 'Why can't you do more? You're slacking. You're capable of doing more.' "

In such a rabid atmosphere, several ex-employees said, abuses become inevitable.

"You close fast because the longer somebody has to sit and think about it, the longer they have to think about the numbers," said Dave Johnson, a former branch manager in suburban Detroit. "You don't want somebody to get buyer's remorse before they close."

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Hudson is a journalist based in Roanoke, Va., and Reckard is a Times staff writer. Times research librarian John L. Jackson, news assistants Chris Tinkham and Todd Leibensperger and staff writer Dan Morain contributed to this report.

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Ameriquest Capital Corp.

Founded: 1979 as Long Beach Savings & Loan

Headquarters: Orange

Branch offices: 298 in 38 states

Employees: More than 12,000

Subsidiaries: Ameriquest Mortgage Co., Argent Mortgage Co., Ameriquest Mortgage Securities, Long Beach Acceptance Corp., Town & Country Credit

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Sources: Ameriquest Capital Corp., Hoover's

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