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Black Farmer Files Lawsuit To Regain Farm With $750,000,000 In Coal And Oil Deposits

Black Farmer Files Lawsuit To Regain Farm With $750,000,000 In Coal And Oil Deposits

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Contributed by muckracker1 (Editor)
Tue May 25 2010 17:57

Latest in 83 year old Black farmer’s fight against illegal foreclosure:
Harry Young files $100 million lawsuit against DOJ and USDA based on loan officer’s testimony at Young’s trial

by Monica Davis

Harry Young is an 83 year old farmer in western Kentucky. He has been waging a five year legal fight to regain his land after the government foreclosured and auctioned the property in 2005. Young filed a $100 million lawsuit against the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, the Department of Justice and various federal officials May 24, 2010. He is seeking a jury trial.

Young, whose land was foreclosed and auctioned in what he contends was an illegal foreclosure, was arrested and tried on charges of allegedly making threats against the Farm Services Agency in Owensboro, Kentucky. He was the last black farmer operating in three western Kentucky counties when his land was sold at what supporters claim was an illegal auction based on fraud in 2005.

At the time, he was not allowed to present evidence of his payments. Young has denied the allegations, that he: made threats, and that he hadn’t made payments on his loan–as alleged by the Assistant US Attorney, who said, in a 2005 press release that “…for many years, Mr. Young had] lived in this house and farmed the land without making payments.”

Young’s land,which includes coal and oil deposits worth as much as $750,000,000 was sold at an auction which supporters say was based on fraudulent, perjured information by federal officials. After the auction,
Young filed suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture and FSA in May in U.S. District Court in Louisville. In the suit, he asks for $25 million for “the embarrassment, humiliation, pain and suffering and personal indignities” caused by the USDA and FSA. He also asks for $5 million for loss of income from farm and related operations. (Local paper.)

That suit, and two others, were thrown out, based on information from the USDA, which did not include the receipt for the payments totaling over $100,000 in 1985/86. Young was tried on the threat charges in the Western District of Federal Court in Paducah, Kentucky. Supporters say the charges were retaliation for his refusal to stop legal action to regain his farm. His trial on the threat allegations resulted in a hung jury on . Rather than risk another trial, Young accepted a plea bargain deal, where he accepted a pre-trial diversion agreement, agreeing to “stay out of trouble for a year.”

Several issues arise: 1. the government did not acknowledge his loan payments; 2. his account was credited with a loan that another farmer received; and 3. he never received a jury trial in earlier proceedings.

According to a local newspaper covering the foreclosure in 2005:

…Young, who is black, says he is a victim of a racist organization. He points to a letter from Jeffery Hall, state FSA executive director, in December 2004 stating that “no voluntary payments on Mr. Young’s account (have) been received since 1980,” and Young “has remained on the property basically rent free.”

The letter contradicts financial statements that show disbursements of $121,800.26 and $9,394.59 from an escrow account to the Farmers Home Administration, the FSA’s former name, in 1985 and 1986, Young said. (Local paper)

Young also said he was charged interest for loans he never took out. “I don’t owe them nothing,” he said. “I’ve overpaid them if they mark interest off.” (Local paper)

Under oath, in contrast to what had been said earlier–that “anyone could have typed up” the receipt which Young said proved his case, the local FSA county supervisor acknowledged that the signature on the receipt for two loan payments was his. On that basis, Young filed a his latest lawsuit.

For the past 20 years, that this legal battle has been waged, Mr. Young has said that the government was lying about his failure to pay his loan, and had charged him for a loan which he never applied for–the proceeds of which reportedly went to a white farmer. Young has always maintained that he paid his loans–which has been corroborated by by court testimony of the county supervisor of the Farm Services Agency (FSA) and its parent agency, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which had earlier claimed that Young hadn’t made a payment on his loan in twenty years. In 2005, the US Attorney out of Louisville, Kentucky, in a press release, said, “For many years, Mr. Young has lived in this house and farmed the land without making payments.”

Justice Department attorneys refused to consider the receipt from the County Supervisor as evidence in 2005. And, when Young showed the receipt to a US Marshal during the auction of his property, the US Marshal reportedly said: “I can’t read.”

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Too Big To Jail? Executives Unscathed As Regulators Let Banks Report Criminal Fraud: HUFFINGTON POST

Too Big To Jail? Executives Unscathed As Regulators Let Banks Report Criminal Fraud: HUFFINGTON POST

Huffington Post Investigative Fund |  David Heath First Posted: 05- 3-10 09:24 PM   |   Updated: 05- 3-10 09:44 PM

Republished from the Huffington Post Investigative Fund.

The financial crisis has spawned hundreds of criminal prosecutions for alleged fraud. Yet so far, defendants have been mostly minor players such as real-estate agents, mortgage brokers, borrowers and a few low-level bank employees. No senior executives at large financial institutions face criminal charges.

Too Big To JailThats in stark contrast to prosecutions during the savings and loan scandal two decades ago, when the government’s strategy targeted and snagged some of banking’s most powerful players. The approach back then succeeded in sending scores of S&L executives to prison, as well as junk-bond king Michael Milken and business tycoon Charles Keating Jr.

One explanation for the difference may be that key bank regulators — who did the detective work during the S&L crisis and sent more than 1,000 criminal referrals to prosecutors — have this time left reporting fraud up to the banks themselves.

Spokesmen for two chief regulators, the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision, say that they have not sent prosecutors a single case for criminal prosecution.

An OTS spokesman said the agency, much like the banks themselves, does not see much evidence of criminal fraud inside the financial institutions. The spokesman, Bill Ruberry, citing the agency’s enforcement director, said, “There may be some isolated cases, but certainly there’s no widespread patterns.”

That surprises William K. Black, a former OTS official who helped coordinate criminal investigations during the S&L crisis.

“Dear God,” Black said when told bank regulators haven’t made any criminal referrals. “Not a single one?”

Black sees many signs the the government is less aggressive than during the S&L era — and could result in more bad behavior.

“This crisis was not bad luck,” he said. “It was done to us. When you bring those convictions, you hope that at least for a while to deter.”

Banks have reported massive amounts of fraud to the Treasury Department but have not held themselves — or their top executives — responsible, instead pinning blame on borrowers, independent mortgage brokers, and others.

That may account for the dearth of prosections against big fry. For instance, in California, among states where the mortgage meltdown hit hardest, the Huffington Post Investigative Fund identified 170 mortgage fraud prosecutions in federal courts. Only two are against employees of a regulated lender.

An Investigative Fund analysis shows that two-thirds of the 170 prosecutions are against mortgage brokers, real-estate professionals or borrowers — the same groups blamed by the banks when they report suspicious activities to regulators.

Besides the absence of criminal referrals, other plausible factors for the lack of major prosecutions may include a skittishness among prosecutors about filing cases they could have trouble winning, and a severe decline in investigative resources. The FBI dramatically shifted resources away from white-collar crime after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

To be sure, there are also notable differences between the S&L and current financial crisis, in the behavior of lenders during both periods, and between civil allegations of fraud and proving that someone committed a crime — all of which could account for the lack of big prosecutions.

But interviews with several law enforcement authorities suggest another explanation: A lack of active assistance to prosecutors by bank regulators who played key roles during the S&L crackdown. Those regulators sent detailed reports to prosecutors of known and suspicious criminal activity.

“Only the regulators can make a lot of these cases,” Black said. “The FBI can make a few, but the regulators are the ones that understand the industry.”


Under intense political pressure in the late 1980s, the Justice Department and thrift regulators developed a strategy to thoroughly investigate failed S&Ls for evidence of fraud and to focus their resources on the highest ranking executives.

In the early years, between 1987 and 1989, there were more than 300 prosecutions. Some bank executives were already behind bars. In 1989, Woody Lemons, chairman of Vernon Savings and Loan in Texas, was sentenced to 30 years.

In June 1990, then-OTS director Timothy Ryan told Congress that his agency had established criminal-referral units in each of 12 district offices. In addition, more than 30 OTS employees were assigned as full-time agents of grand juries or assistant US attorneys to help prosecutions. And the agency prioritized prosecutions to a Top 100 list, targeting senior S&L executives and directors.

While data on criminal referrals during the S&L crisis is spotty, the Government Accountability Office reported that in the first ten months of 1992 alone — a random snapshot — financial regulators sent the Justice Department more than 1,000 cases for criminal prosecution.

One study showed that 35 percent of criminal referrals in Texas — ground zero for the S&L problems — were against officers and directors.

This time, prosecutors are relying more heavily on banks to report suspicious activity to the Treasury Department. Banks are required to report known or suspected criminal violations, including fraud, on Suspicious Activity Reports designed for the purpose. In effect, the reports, which can be many pages in length, provide substantive leads for criminal investigations.

Black scoffs at the strategy of leaving it to banks to ferret out all the fraud. “Institutions will not make criminal referrals against the people who control the institutions,” said Black.

A white-collar criminologist and law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he argues that there’s ample evidence of fraud. Insiders working for lenders openly referred to loans they made without proof of income as “liar loans.” Many banks actively sought inflated appraisals in their rush to make as many loans as possible. As previously reported by the Investigative Fund, such lending practices contributed to the demise of Washington Mutual.

Not everyone agrees that such a case can be successful. Benjamin Wagner, a U.S. Attorney who is actively prosecuting mortgage fraud cases in Sacramento, Calif., points out that banks lose money when a loan turns out to be fraudulent. An investor in loans who documents fraud can force a bank to buy the loan back. But convincing a jury that executives intended to make fraudulent loans, and thus should be held criminally responsible, may be too difficult of a hurdle for prosecutors.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me that they would be deliberately defrauding themselves,” Wagner said.

So far, only sporadic news reports suggest that the Justice Department has ongoing criminal investigations against major banks such as Washington Mutual and Countrywide, as well as investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Fewer Cops on the Beat

The Justice Department, in response to written questions from the Investigative Fund, acknowledged the absence of criminal referrals from financial regulators. Months into the financial crisis, a new Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, formed by President Obama last fall, was trying to work out communication problems between Justice and the regulatory agencies, according to the head of the task force, Robb Adkins. Adkins has said that criminal referrals from regulators have been “too often the exception to the rule.”

At a Congressional hearing in December, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer was asked why there have been no criminal cases brought yet against CEOs. “Don’t for a moment think [these cases] aren’t being investigated,” Breuer replied. “They are complicated cases. It took a long time in hatching them and developing them. But they will be brought.”

The system that tracks Suspicious Activity Reports, or SARs, detected a dramatic increase in mortgage fraud starting in 2003, when reports of mortgage fraud nearly doubled within a year from 5,400 to 9,500. By 2007, the number had exploded to 53,000. During those same years, many mortgage lenders dramatically lowered their lending standards. Banks often required no proof of income. Borrowers could even get loans without be able to repay them.

Yet in their reports, banks overwhelmingly have blamed others for fraud. Whenever a borrower’s income was wrong on a loan application, the banks fingered borrowers 87 percent of the time and independent mortgage brokers 64 percent of the time, according to a 2006 Treasury analysis of the SARs. But the bank’s own employees were almost never blamed — only about four times in every 1,000 reports.

That might explain why so few prosecutions have targeted bank insiders.

Another reason for fewer prosecutions against bank employees is that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has far fewer agents working on the current crisis. Deputy Director John Pistole testified before Congress last year that the bureau had 1,000 people working on the S&L crisis at its height. That compares to about 240 agents working on mortgage fraud cases last year.

The FBI dramatically shifted its resources away from white-collar crime and to terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“We just didn’t have the cops on the beat” during the recent crisis, said Sen. Ted Kaufman, the Delaware Democrat who conducted a hearing on the lack of criminal prosecutions. “I was around during the savings and loan crisis [as a Congressional aide] and we had a lot more folks working it when it went down.”

Even with additional funding from Congress, which Kaufman helped push through, the FBI is budgeted to have 377 people working mortgage fraud cases this year, about a third as many as during the S&L investigations.

Charges Harder to Prove?

Charges in the recent banking crisis may be harder to prove, said Robert H. Tillman, who teaches at St. John’s University and who analyzed data about S&L prosecutions. Savings and loan executives who were convicted often personally approved large commercial loans for projects doomed to fail. Some would use federally insured deposits to pay themselves excessive salaries or to lend money to their own real estate projects. A few even took kickbacks.

This time, lending executives may have encouraged the making of bad loans, but they generally did not personally approve the loans, Tillman said. They didn’t send emails telling the troops to make fraudulent loans but paid big commissions to loan offers who made risky loans. Then the executives were able to reap huge bonuses for making the company look so profitable.

So far, the biggest cases have been civil lawsuits brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, including most recently a highly publicized securities fraud case against Goldman Sachs and one of its vice presidents, Fabrice P. Tourre. News reports suggest that a referral from the SEC’s enforcement division to the Justice Department has led to a criminal inquiry.

Typically, federal authorities deal with massive financial scandals by picking a few cases they are confident they can win, said Henry Pontell, an expert on fraud at the University of California — Irvine.

This time, the administration may have been more focused on saving failing banks — and an entire financial system — than in prosecuting bank executives, Pontell said. Giving billions in bailout dollars to executives who encouraged fraudulent practices not only could complicate a case, it could prove embarrasing, he added.

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