Victims of racial discrimination by national mortgage lender could get thousands in payout

News conference set for 10 a.m.

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana victims of racial discrimination by a national mortgage lender could get thousands of dollars as part of a $335 million settlement.

U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett on Thursday announced a joint venture between the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney's Civil Rights Task Force to locate Indiana victims of discriminatory lending practices by Countrywide Financial Corporation.

The $335 million settlement stems from allegations that from 2004 to 2008, Countrywide intentionally charged more than 1,300 black and Hispanic Hoosiers higher fees and interest rates than white borrowers with similar credit profiles, while intentionally directing more minority applicants toward risky sub-prime mortgages.

"They paid on average $800 more than a non-Hispanic white borrower with similar credit information," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Richards. "That's based on a $200,000 loan. For African Americans, they paid on average $500 more than the loan that would have been given to the non-Hispanic white borrower."

Indiana borrowers who have been identified as victims are entitled to payments if they contact the settlement administrator before the March 29 deadline.

"We want all Hoosiers to know that this historic settlement provides financial relief to many families that were victimized by what we believe was a scheme to target minorities in this state," Hogsett said. "The effects of such discrimination don't just tear apart communities -- they also deny thousands their fair chance at the American dream."

Louise Evans, a victim, shared her story at Thursday's news conference. 

"At the time I was trying to buy a house. Countrywide knew we were desperate and took advantage of us," she said. "I think they owe me. I think it's good they are going to pay me. I need restitution for that."

Evans called Thursday and was told she will receive payment from the settlement, and she will be mailed a document telling her the exact amount she'll receive.

Settlement payments range from $3,000 to $20,000.

While many Indiana victims have already been notified of their rights under the settlement, more than 400 have either not been located or failed to respond to notifications, Hogsett said.

Those who believe they may have been the victim of lending discrimination by Countrywide are asked to contact the settlement administrator, Rust Consulting, by phone at 800-843-5148 or by email at info@CWFLSettlement.com .

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