Admitted Countrywide data thief gets 8 months in prison
A former employee of mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp. was sentenced Tuesday to eight months in prison and ordered to repay $1.2 million after pleading guilty to downloading millions of borrower files on thumb drives and selling the information to other loan officers.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Angela Davis had recommended a sentence of 30 months in prison for Rene L. Rebollo Jr. of Pasadena, who had worked as a senior analyst at Countrywide's subprime unit, Full Spectrum Lending. In January Rebollo changed his plea from not guilty to guilty.
In an impassioned entreaty to U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder, Rebollo expressed remorse for his actions, described his efforts to cooperate with prosecutors and told the judge that he wanted to be free as soon as possible to try to repair the damage he had caused his family.
Synder sentenced Rebollo to 10 months at a halfway house as well as the eight months in prison.
The $1.2 million represented the costs that Bank of America Corp., which acquired Calabasas-based Countrywide in 2008, incurred in notifying 2.5 million individuals that their personal financial information had been stolen. The data in about 50,000 of those cases included Social Security numbers, which make it especially easy to commit identity fraud, Davis said.
Rebollo was arrested in August 2008, a month after Bank of America acquired Countrywide. Authorities said he sold the borrower information to employees of other loan companies to be used as sales leads. Davis said Rebollo made $400,000 from the sales, but Rebollo's lawyer said it wasn't that much.
Another defendant in the case, Wahid Siddiqi, was previously convicted of selling the information that Rebollo provided and was sentenced to 36 months in prison. Davis said Siddiqi had a previous criminal history.
The case, which identity theft experts said was the biggest reported data theft that they could recall by a financial insider, led to more than 30 lawsuits, including nationwide class actions.
Bank of America settled the suits in August 2010 by agreeing to provide free credit monitoring, identity theft insurance and reimbursement for losses to as many as 17 million consumers who had dealt with Countrywide.
There was no evidence that the 2.5 million borrowers whose personal data were stolen had suffered financial harm as a result, Davis said. The government had listed Countrywide as the victim of the crime but not the borrowers.
-- E. Scott Reckard
Photo: The Charlotte, N.C., headquarters of Bank of America, which acquired Countrywide in 2008. Credit: Getty Images / Davis Turner