Homeowners lose in alleged Ameriquest misdoings

Putting a human face to a real estate nightmare

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Jeff Busby looked at his loan documents and could not understand how he and his wife generated an extra $5,500 per month for three years. Linda Winkler's mortgage papers included a low-interest loan payoff she wanted to keep. "They paid off the wrong loan," Winkler said of her refinance with Ameriquest Mortgage Co. "We didn't discover it until all the funds were dispersed, but that was just the start of things that went wrong. Instead of a promise that my loan payment would go down, it shot up from $1,368 to $1,800." Seattle residents Busby and Winkler are two of thousands of victims nationwide who charged Orange County, Calif.-based Ameriquest, the nation's largest privately held retail mortgage lender, with deceptive and unfair lending practices. The company, which has more than 270 branches, recently announced a $325 million settlement with 49 states and the District of Columbia -- the second-largest mortgage settlement in history. In 2002, Household International reached a similar ...