Attorney Lynn Szymoniak had spent a career investigating insurance fraud when a bank moved to foreclose on her Florida home in 2008. Almost four years later, the fraud she said she uncovered by combing through mortgage documents earned her $18 million.
Szymoniak, 63, is among six whistle-blowers who will pocket $46.5 million as part of a $25 billion national foreclosure settlement that states (including Arizona) and federal officials reached in February with five banks, including Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, according to the Justice Department.
“When they did this to her, they picked the wrong person at the wrong time in the wrong place,” said Richard Harpootlian, Szymoniak’s attorney in two whistle-blower cases. “They stuck their hand into the beehive.”
Szymoniak’s examination, in which she relied on her experience as an insurance-fraud investigator, led to her claims against banks for submitting fraudulent documents to the federal government asserting that they owned loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration, she said.
The national foreclosure settlement with the five banks, which resolves claims of abusive foreclosure practices, provides mortgage relief to borrowers, pays $1.5 billion to those who lost their homes to foreclosure, and sets standards for how the banks service mortgage loans.
A spokesman for New York-based JPMorgan would not comment on the whistle-blower cases. Spokespeople for the other banks – Bank of America, Ally Financial Inc., Wells Fargo Co. and Citigroup Inc. – either would not comment or didn’t return messages seeking comment.