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HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 98-142
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685Thursday
Or contact your local HUD officeApril 2, 1998


WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today announced that HUD has begun debarment action against George A. Sophocleous, the former president and part-owner of a New York City mortgage company accused of improper lending practices. The proposed debarment seeks to prevent Sophocleous from doing new business with federal agencies for three years.

Sophocleous - who lives in Glen Cove, NY - is the former president of Olympic Home Mortgage Company in the New York City borough of Queens. The firm later was purchased by a new owner, who changed its name to InterAmerican Mortgage Corporation.

Today's announcement follows an agreement HUD reached last summer with InterAmerican's new owners under which the company agreed to pay up to $2 million to HUD to settle improper lending accusations that were made against the company while it was headed by Sophocleous.

Beatrice Sukhdeo, who worked for Sophocleous as a loan officer, was debarred by HUD last year for three years for her involvement in the improper lending practices.

"These actions are part of HUD's continuing crackdown on waste, fraud and abuse," Cuomo said. "HUD's days as a mugging victim are over. Anyone who tries to rip off this Department will be caught and punished to the full extent the law allows."

Sukhdeo was accused of participating in a scheme to falsify information about the income, assets and downpayments of homebuyers so the homebuyers could qualify for larger home mortgage loans than they could afford. Sophocleous, who supervised Sukhdeo, allegedly was aware of her misconduct and failed to notify HUD.

HUD became involved because the mortgages were insured by HUD's Federal Housing Administration. When 19 FHA-insured mortgages that were issued based on false information defaulted, FHA was required to pay off the loans at a cost of about $1 million.

The debarment action against Sophocleous to deny him new federal contracts for three years would deprive him of an important source of income for many businesses. Sophocleous has requested a hearing by a HUD Administrative Law Judge to contest the proposed debarment.

Cuomo launched the "Get Tough" initiative to crack down of waste, fraud, and abuse in HUD programs in March, 1997 in partnership the Justice Department.

A recent report on HUD's Get Tough Initiative found that:

  • HUD dramatically increased the number of debarment actions against bad landlords to 122 n 1997 - an increase of over 300 percent from 1996, when just 30 landlords were subject to debarment action that stopped them from doing business with federal agencies for varying numbers of years.

  • HUD and the Justice Department worked with the HUD Inspector General's Office, the Treasury Department and state and local governments to nearly double the number of civil case and settlements resulting in recoveries against landlords of HUD-assisted housing last year. The number of such cases grew to 46 in 1997 - up from 24 in 1996.

  • HUD and the Justice Department recovered nearly $25 million in money owed to HUD by landlords as a result of the above actions in 1997 - up from about $18 million the year before.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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