As a result of the near depression in 2008, federal, state and local law enforcement have continued their effort to quell the fraudulent mortgage application and closing practices that have existed in South Florida and across the country for the past ten years. Everyone is aware that Miami-Dade County has the highest concentration of mortgage fraud in the entire country. As a result of the notoriety, Miami-Dade County's mayor, Carlos Alvarez created a local mortgage task force assigned to investigating and prosecuting mortgage fraud cases under Florida Statute § 817.545. The statute sets forth criminal liability for individuals who intentionally make material misstatements, misrepresentations that lenders and banking institutions use to determine whether or not to provide a loan. Miami criminal defense lawyers have seen an increase in the number of clients charged in Miami mortgage fraud cases.
There are two types of mortgage fraud that can be perpetrated. The first is committing fraud to obtain property which usually involves an individual providing misinformation to lending institution in an effort to obtain a single piece of property. The second type of mortgage fraud cases which is more closely scrutinized is fraudulently obtaining loans to make a profit. In fact, it is these types of cases that are specifically targeted by the task force. These cases involve straw buyers, unscrupulous appraisers, real estate agents and mortgage brokers that eventually end up with the lending institutions holding the bag with worthless mortgages and foreclosed properties.
There have been recent reports of innocent homeowners being unknowingly caught up in mortgage fraud schemes. Some homeowners have been wrongly arrested for mortgage fraud. These home owners were duped in signing blank or incomplete documents being told that this would speed up the lending and closing process. After the documents are signed, the true perpetrators either make false and fraudulent entries or make substantial changes without the knowledge or consent of the home buyer. Remember, if you are contacted by the mortgage fraud task force regarding the purchase of a piece of property, contact a Miami criminal defense law firm before speaking to the authorities. Any statements you give, may inadvertently build a stronger case for the prosecution.
The task force receives complaints and tips on a web site operated by the Miami-Dade County Mortgage Task Force. Once a tip is received, detectives review the hundreds of documents that go along with real estate loans and closings. The investigations may take months to years depending on the complexity of the case. The number of tips and complaints have nearly doubled since the inception of the task force. Bear in mind that the statute of limitations for mortgage fraud is 5 years. This gives law enforcement a significant amount of time to bring mortgage fraud cases to court for prosecution.
Task Force Crackdown on Miami Mortgage Fraud, 24-7 Press Release.com, June 26, 2010.