Fraud fallout. A jury on Wednesday found Bank of America liable for underwriting billions of dollars in junk mortgages. The U.S. Department of Justice sued the banking giant for fraud committed by its subsidiary Countrywide as the economy cratered between 2007 and 2009. The case described a Countrywide program called “The Hustle” that encouraged employees to write as many loans as they could in the shortest time possible. As part of the program, lenders entered false data, sometimes knowingly, about borrowers and closed loans without checking the facts. The government claimed the bank knew what Countrywide was doing and didn’t report it to the federal government, even as the bank accepted bail-out funds from the TARP program. The U.S. Attorney’s office has asked the court to fine Bank of America $848 million.
Iran-Africa connection. Terrorists in Nigeria are taking cues from Islamic extremists in Iran, according to a new report by an anti-terrorism think tank. The research, reported today by Fox News, connects Islamic extremism in Nigeria with Iranian efforts to “undermine the interests of the U.S. and its allies” in the country. Iran, along with Hezbollah, has reportedly collected intelligence on Western activities, including oil production, in Nigeria. Bloody attacks against Christians in the country have surged in recent months. The jihadist group Boko Haram has killed thousands in Northern Nigeria, where Iran’s ideology of an Islamist state has received widespread support. The research is expected to be published today in the CTC Sentinel.
Big spender. The Vatican has suspended a German bishop who spent millions to makeover his personal residence. Bishop of Limburg Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the so-called “Bishop of Bling,” has acknowledged spending more than $42 million on renovations. The upgrades included a $20,000 bathtub and a $34,500 conference table, according to German media reports. German media criticized the bishop last year for taking a first-class flight to India to visit the poor. He sued German magazine Der Spiegel over the story. Now the bishop is being investigated for lying under oath in that case. Tebartz-van Elst met with the pope in Rome on Monday. A church commission will conduct an inquiry on the case and issue an official ruling on the bishop’s fate.
School killing. Police have arrested a 14-year-old student in the murder of a high school teacher in Danvers, Mass. Colleen Ritzer’s body was found overnight Tuesday in the woods near the school. Multiple media outlets reported Thursday that Ritzer was killed with a box cutter in a bathroom at the school. Grief counselors are meeting with students today. Classes are scheduled to resume tomorrow.