FTC mails 52,000 Floridians refund checks in Countrywide settlement

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The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is mailing nearly 52,000 refund checks to Florida homeowners allegedly charged excessive fees by Countrywide Financial Corp., the agency said Wednesday.

The mailings, to go out Thursday, are among 450,177 refund checks totaling $108 million being sent to homeowners nationwide as a part of a settlement reached last year between the FTC and the bank. The checks vary from less than $500 to several thousand dollars, according to the agency.

Countrywide is now owned by Bank of America Corp.

"Refund checks are being mailed to 51,588 in Florida,'' said FTC spokesman Frank Dorman. "I don't have a breakdown by county or region." He added that any homeowner who thinks he or she should get a check – but doesn't receive one -- can call 888-230-3196.

"Countrywide's unconscionable behavior harmed American consumers on a massive scale," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in the statement. "We are proud to be getting every single dollar back to hundreds of thousands of struggling consumers who can least afford to lose the money."

Four years ago, Countrywide was the top mortgage servicer in the U.S. with more than $1.4 trillion in its portfolio, the FTC said.

The FTC said homeowners who were behind on mortgage payments were duped into paying higher fees that could add thousands of dollars to their costs. The fees were for services such as lawn mowing and property inspections.

Bank of America has said that the investigation began before it acquired Countrywide in 2008.

An FTC contractor was scheduled to mail checks Thursday from a list of overcharged homeowners obtained from Countrywide records, said Dorman. "It's automatic,'' he said.

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