Lee Farkas, former owner of Taylor Bean & Whitaker, a free man after 9 years

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Lee Farkas

Ocala, Florida — A wholesale mortgage executive responsible for one of the largest fraud schemes in U.S history has been released from prison after only serving nine years of a 30-year sentence at Coleman prison in Wildwood, Florida

Lee Farkas, 67, was released after he petitioned the court due to COVID-19 concerns.

Farkas was the majority owner of one of the nation’s largest wholesale mortgage companies, Taylor Bean & Whitaker, when the company engaged in fraud estimated at $2.9 billion.

Prior to the company being defunct, it was valued at more than 30 billion.

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The collapse of the company was directly linked to the Great Recession and caused the loss of more than 2,000 jobs. It also caused the sixth-largest bank collapse in U.S history, which was Colonial Bank.

At the time, Farkas owned multiple Ocala businesses, including Compass Gym, Ipanema, Dee Dee’s Hot Dogs, Cactus Car Wash, just to mention a few.

Farkas owned several luxury vehicles, including a fully restored vintage Rolls-Royce. Additionally, he owned a private jet and multiple luxury homes.

According to court records, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, said, “Yes it was a large financial crime, but he was not the only person engaged in that type of crime.”

The judge released Farkas based on his age and health condition. The judge said COVID-19 running rampant through the prison system was a huge concern, therefore she felt it was best to release him.

Prosecutors disagreed, but the judge said that Farkas is a non-violent criminal and that his health was a huge concern giving the circumstances.

Farkas will live with his sister in Albuquerque after he completes a 14-day quarantine.

More than a half-dozen Colonial and Taylor Bean & Whitaker executives pleaded guilty to their roles in the fraud.

Taylor Bean treasurer Desiree Brown cooperated with the FBI. She allowed her phones to be tapped and had dozens of recorded conversations with Farkas. Brown testified against Farkas at his 2011 trial in return for a lighter sentence — a 20-year sentence reduced by 60 percent. In the end, she was sentenced to six years.

Court documents show that Brown was a key player in the day-to-day aspects that made the majority of the fraud possible.