Maryland-based lender Lower sued four former employees for fraud which it says has cost the firm more than $4 million in financial losses. Lower also accused Texas-based lender AmCap Mortgage of conspiring in a scheme with its former employee to induce other staff to abruptly leave Lower.
Jason Ozment, Lower’s former vice president and branch manager in Plano, Texas, misappropriated vast amounts of confidential business and trade secret information concerning its business and its customers, including account information and personal information about Lower’s customers to improperly compete with Lower, according to a suit filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Texas in July.
Ozment was hired in April 2022 and was given access to Lower’s confidential information and trade secrets, including customer identification, financial information and lending objectives. He left the lender in a “sudden coordinated departure in November 2022,” Lower alleged in its suit.
Ozment as well as other former employees — loan officer Ron Hankins, underwriter Natalie Boyd and loan processor Kristin Mastrorilli — followed improper mortgage lending practices and lied to Lower about doing so in order to further line their pockets, according to the suit.
The former employees agreed to fraudulently cause Lower to issue high risk loans while knowingly disregarding that at least 13 of the customers receiving these loans did not meet Lower’s loan eligibility criteria, Lower alleged.
The suit said the former employees engaged in “the gross misconduct” to earn more money from Lower than they would have otherwise been owed had they not caused Lower to issue the high-risk loans.
“As a direct and proximate result of Mr. Ozment’s, Mr. Hankins’, Ms. Boyd’s, and/or Ms. Mastrorilli’s fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud, Lower has suffered financial loss and other damages that exceed $4,000,000.00,” the suit said.
Ozment operates Oz Lending as a DBA of AmCap and the suit alleges that he has posted selected portions of customer reviews to misleadingly portray prior customer successes as a result of Ozment’s relationship with AmCap, “when in reality, those successes were a result of Mr. Ozment and Oz Lending were associated with Lower.”
To date, Ozment and AmCap have not returned Lower’s confidential information and trade secrets, Lower alleged.
“Rather, Mr. Ozment has improperly retained and used Lower’s confidential information and trade secrets to solicit Lower’s customers for his, and AmCap’s, benefit thereby breaching the agreement.”
Ozment’s employment agreement — which contained non-solicit provisions — would require Ozment not to compete with Lower and to refrain from soliciting any employees or business from any of Lower’s customers for 16 months after his termination.
Lower claimed that AmCap knew of Ozment’s employment agreement.
The suit claimed that by mid-to-late 2022, Ozment secretly entered into agreements with AmCap to leave Lower and to take Lower’s information, customers and the Plano office employees with him to AmCap.
According to the suit, AmCap and Ozment agreed that AmCap would offer jobs to Lower’s Plano office employees working with Ozment if they agreed to terminate their employment with Lower.
Lower’s employment-related claims will be resolved through arbitration while the lender will ask a court order for permanent injunctive relief from Oz Lending using Lower’s customer information, property and client testimonials, according to the suit.
Summons were issued to AmCap Mortgage and its former employees earlier this month.
Lower, attorneys for the lender, Ozment, Hankin and Mastrorilli didn’t respond to requests for comment.
AmCap declined to comment on active litigation.
Lower originated a total of $4.24 billion in production volume across 14,563 loans in 2022, according to mortgage data platform Modex. A total of 433 sponsored loan originators work in 77 active branches across the country, according to the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS).
AmCap Mortgage posted a production volume of $3.35 billion across 11,289 last year, according to Modex. AmCap has 540 sponsored MLOs across 128 active branch locations, NMLS showed.