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Countrywide Sues Man, Alleging Mortgage Fraud

September 29, 2006|From the Associated Press

Countrywide Financial Corp. is suing an Indianapolis man, accusing him of orchestrating a mortgage fraud scheme in which dozens of Virginia residents were tricked into buying homes in Indiana at inflated prices.

The Calabasas-based lender alleges that Robert Penn worked with relatives in Virginia and associates that included appraisers and mortgage companies to defraud the victims in a case that could total about $80 million in loans.

In the lawsuit filed in Marion County, where most of the Indianapolis-area properties are located, Countrywide claims the defendants duped their victims by inviting them to take part in either an "investment opportunity" or a "real estate investment club."

The victims were not required to make down payments or cash contributions.

The suit alleges that the paperwork that truck drivers, retirees, factory workers and others in or around Martinsville, Va., signed eventually made them "straw borrowers" liable for bogus loans for one or more homes.

The victims were not given copies of the documents and were rushed into signing them after being told they needed to be quickly delivered to Indianapolis, the lawsuit claims.

"The straw borrowers were not asked to read the documents they signed, and in some cases were told there was no time for such a read or that it was unnecessary," the lawsuit states.

Tony Pickett, an Indianapolis real estate agent who is representing 39 of the victims, said the case involved about 400 loans that average about $200,000 each.

Pickett and his wife, Robin, both real estate agents at Prudential Ron Matthews Realtors in Indianapolis, are trying to resell the homes located in run-down neighborhoods and new subdivisions in the Indianapolis area.

Countrywide spokesman Rick Simon said Thursday that the company would have no additional comment on the lawsuit.

Messages seeking comment were left Thursday at the Indianapolis offices of Penn's lawyers, who did not return calls.

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