Tommy K and the Shitpile
I’m still trying to sort through what it might mean that, after signing an unlikely plea agreement with the government, Duke Cunningham briber Tommy K has continued to engage in mortgage fraud, at the expense of the company most deeply buried in the shitpile, Washington Mutual (WaMu).
But let’s start with the description John Michael’s lawyers gave of Tommy K’s method.
Kontogiannis would have a loan application prepared in the name of a putative home purchaser, sometimes with the knowledge of the person (who might be paid a fee) and sometimes without the personâ€™s knowledge, for a property that Kontogiannis either had developed or had planned to develop. Fraudulent paperwork would be prepared related to, for example, income, assets, or appraisal. (Kontogiannis presumably would pay a kickback to the individual preparing these documents.) Applications would then otherwise be submitted for approval to various financial institutions in accordance with normal industry practices. At closing, all title documentation (such as the mortgage and note, the uniform settlement statement (HUD-1 form), title-insurance paperwork, and affidavits pertaining to the purchaserâ€™s identity and intent of occupancy) would be fraudulently executed by a loan officer controlled by Kontogiannis. The settlement agent, using money that had been forwarded by the lender and placed in escrow, would issue checks to cover mortgage taxes, transfer taxes, recording fees, title insurance, and lender fees, as well as the net proceeds (the balance of the loan money), all of which (with the exception, sometimes, of lender fees) would go to Kontogiannis-controlled entities, including companies ostensibly owned by one of Kontogiannisâ€™s daughters and controlled by Kontogiannis. The mortgage and note, however, would never be recorded, the taxes never paid, and title insurance never purchased. Instead, the funds that had been disbursed for these purposes would eventually be steered to another company ostensibly owned by one of Kontogiannisâ€™s daughters but controlled by Kontogiannis.
These fraudulent loans would ultimately be sold into the secondary-mortgage market to a lender who would be led to believe, based on the loan documentation provided by Kontogiannisâ€™s agent, that the loan had been sent for recording and that all taxes and recording fees had been paid. A Kontogiannis controlled financial-services company, typically Parkview Financial, Inc. (â€œParkviewâ€), would assume responsibility for making monthly payments on the loan. So long as timely payments were made, the loan would be viewed by the new owner as performing and, consequently, never questioned.
Kontogiannisâ€™s greed, however, did not stop there. He would then market the property to an end-user, whose financing was often out of Kontogiannisâ€™s control. Upon closing with the end-user, Kontogiannis would take a second bite from the mortgage-fraud apple: iin light of the fact that the first mortgage on the property had never been recorded, the settlement
agent would release the net proceeds of the second loan directly to a Kontogiannis-controlled company without paying off the existing loan because the latter had never been recorded. For
its part, the lender who had purchased the first mortgage would not know that the property had been sold again and that, consequently, its position in the chain of title had been compromised. [my emphasis
So basically, Tommy K would double dip on mortgages on houses that no one (except for at least one corrupt Congressman) was really buying. Here’s where we get into WaMu’s role in this. The "one company alone" in the following paragraph must be WaMu, given the government’s assertion that WaMu had purchased $50 million in Tommy K’s fraudulent loans.
The volume of Kontogiannisâ€™s fraudulent loans as of June 1995 is shown by one of Parkviewâ€™s bank-account statements. See Exhibits 12 and 13. The statement reveals mortgage payments on 140 different properties. One company alone had purchased over 100 of the loans in the secondary market, with an average loan amount of approximately $500,000. That publicly traded and federally chartered bank thus had approximately $50,000,000 in loans that were potentially worthless because, as a result of Kontogiannisâ€™s scams, none of the mortgages were recorded in primary position as the bank had assumed. That, in turn, meant that if any of the loans defaulted, the bank would not be able to foreclose on any real property and thereby recoup any of the losses. Needless to say, the impact of such losses would be profound both on the individual bank and on the shareholders of the company. Even scarier, that bank may have since purchased many more such loans from Kontogiannis. [my emphasis]
Note, Michael’s lawyers are citing how many bad mortgages WaMu had bought in 1995, not how many they bought by 2007. And, as they helpfully point out, Tommy K may well have continued this fraud after he signed his plea deal in February. That’s certainly the implication of this passage from yesterday’s filing.
…as a direct result of being contacted by Michael’s defensecounsel, Washington Mutual contacted the government with informationregarding Mr. Kontogiannis’s continued illegal activity. [my emphasis]
Michael’s filing was in August, which would leave several months after Tommy K’s plea deal for him to continue to sell Greek shitpile to WaMu. And of course, the government didn’t bother to tell anyone that Tommy K had been selling Greek shitpile until June, which appears to have allowed WaMu to continue to buy up Tommy K’s fraudulent loans. Five or seven months of Greek shitpile, depending on how you’re counting–that might be a significant amount of shitpile.
Now, I might feel bad for WaMu. Except for the fact that they’re pretty damned corrupt themselves, and seem to have been in the business of making sure they didn’t know if they bought shitpile. Here’s what Andrew Cuomo alleges them to have done.
WaMu retained eAppraiseIT in Spring 2006, after WaMu decided to close its internal appraisal office and terminate its staff appraisers. WaMu quickly became eAppraiseITâ€™s largest client, providing nearly 30 percent of its business in New York. Over the course of the business relationship, eAppraiseIT conducted more than 260,000 appraisals for WaMu, receiving over $50 million from WaMu.
In February 2007, WaMu directed eAppraiseIT to stop using its usual panels of staff and fee appraisers to perform WaMu appraisals. Instead, WaMuâ€™s loan origination staff demanded that eAppraiseIT use a Proven Panel of appraisers selected by the loan origination staff, who were chosen because they provided high values.
Even beyond picking the Proven Panel, WaMuâ€™s loan officers at times also directly selected specific individual appraisers on the panel to conduct their appraisals.
In other words, after the Federal government passed a law requiring appraiser independence, WaMu set up a scheme where it could rely exclusively on a bunch of appraisers hand-picked because they would appraise house values on the high side, thereby ensuring WaMu could continue to make loans on houses that were over-valued.
Now, there is nothing in Cuomo’s complaint that says WaMu was using select appraisers to allow it to buy fraudulent loans–there’d be no reason (at least none that I can think of) for them to do that. But I’ll bet you that WaMu’s efforts to ensure there was inadequate oversight over the loans they were making made it a lot easier for Tommy K to continue to sell them Greek shitpile. And I’m a little curious about the timing. The government says they just got more information from (presumably) WaMu.
(8) Within the past two weeks, we obtained clearer indications that Mr. Kontogiannis was engaged in post-plea illegal activity
Cuomo filed his suit against First American and eAppraiseIT on November 1–so just two weeks before the government got this additional information from WaMu.
If this convergence of the Cunningham scandal and the shitpile scandal weren’t already giving you vertigo, here’s something that is almost certainly just a creepy coincidence.
That star is where Brent Wilkes’ former office for ADCS was located. And eAppraiseIT and First American–those companies allowing WaMu to buy mortgages it shouldn’t have? They’re located right at the end of First American Way–just around the corner in corrupt Poway, CA (h/t Citizen 92 and chrisc; and I used to live there so I can call it corrupt). It’s probably a coincidence. But it’s pretty remarkable, nevertheless.