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Like santa, mortgage fraud task force comes to town

Posted on February 25, 2010 3:00 AM EST

Miami, the epicenter for mortgage fraud in the United States is playing host to mortgage-fraud summit meetings being provided by the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Barrack Obama established the task force last November in an effort to stamp out mortgage fraud, and other fraudulent real estate crimes. The task force is made up of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Miami criminal defense attorneys have been defending mortgage/real estate fraud cases in federal courts extensively over the past 24 months. There are currently 23 distinct task forces presently working throughout the country. Miami has become a primary focus of fraud since the housing bubble burst over two years ago. Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida commented, "Nowhere is the problem more serious than here in Florida."

South Florida, including Miami, is listed as number one in the nation for suspicious activity reports ("SARs"). SARs are financial reports issued by lending institutions when suspicious real estate activities occur. In another report generated by lender, Fannie Mae, Florida ranked the highest in loan fraud in 2008 and 2009. Every part of the loan industry has been clouded by fraud over the past several years. Numerous Miami-Dade residents have been indicted in federal court for defrauding banks and other lending institutions out of millions and millions of dollars. Buyers, sellers, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, lawyers and secretaries have all been the subject of dozens and dozens of federal investigations and prosecutions.

Generally, individuals charged in federal court are facing charges such as racketeering, mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit those crimes. Typically, defendants charged with these crimes are facing between two to thirty years. The sentences are determined using the federal sentencing guidelines. The guidelines move higher, the greater the loss suffered by the financial institutions. While mortgage fraud is a difficult crime to detect, enormous losses suffered by banks, putting the likes of Washington Mutual and Wachovia out of business, have caused lending institutions to ramp up security. Banks are shoring up their defenses by verifying employment, income, assets, and other financial information prior to loaning money. Federal regulators are also pushing banks and lending institutions to file SARs if they have the slightest hint fraud may be involved.

Banks have taken the advice to heart and have become investigators themselves. A recent report indicated the 60% of the mortgage fraud investigations begin with the initiation of a SAR. The mortgage-fraud summit meetings are slated to provide seminar type training to lending institutions in an effort to help them identify mortgage/real estate fraud. The summits are also designed to analyze fraudulent trends and create solutions to fight the problems. Summits are also scheduled to be held in Phoenix and Detroit. If you or someone you know is be investigated or prosecuted for mortgage fraud, contact a criminal defense firm experienced in defending these types of cases.

Mortgage Fraud Task Force Comes to Miami, The Miami Herald, February 25, 2010.
Categories: Fraud