Mortgage fraud – a white-collar crime that either lenders or borrowers can commit – is a felony offense punishable by imprisonment. And it is quite commonplace in Florida. In fact, Florida led the nation in instances of mortgage fraud in 2014, according to The Miami Herald. If you are facing such charges, call a mortgage fraud lawyer in St. Petersburg at Goldman Wetzel for help.
What constitutes mortgage fraud?
Florida Statute § 817.545 defines mortgage fraud as a “material misstatement, misrepresentation, or omission during the mortgage lending process with the intention that the misstatement, misrepresentation, or omission will be relied on by a mortgage lender, borrower, or any other person or entity involved in the mortgage lending process.” It can involve consumers who lie on their mortgage applications, or lenders who lie to consumers or that are involved in a mortgage scheme.
Borrowers may be charged with fraud if they lie or perform illegal actions in order to obtain housing. For example, they might lie about their income and falsify their W-2s, fabricate their employment records, or distort the appraisal.
Mortgage fraud schemes are quite commonplace as well. Some of the most common schemes include the following.
- Fake foreclosure rescues – Lenders trick homeowners who are facing foreclosure to sign their home over to the lender, who promises to allow the homeowner to rent until they re-establish their credit. But rather than making good on the mortgage as promised, the lender pockets the homeowner’s payments, and the bank forecloses on the home anyway.
- Illegal property flipping – A buyer purchases a property, obtains a fake inflated appraisal that overstates the value, and then quickly sells the property.
- Bait and switch – The lender changes the terms of the loan at the last second (i.e., different interest rate) and pressures the buyer to proceed with the closing.
What penalties could I face for mortgage fraud?
The state usually charges mortgage fraud as a third-degree felony. It carries potential penalties of five years imprisonment and $5,000 in fines. This is why hiring a good attorney is so vital.
And law enforcement and the FBI are cracking down on fraud schemes. Look at some of the most recent cases of fraud the FBI has reported.
- A judge sentenced a woman in Lake Worth, Florida to 42 months in prison for her role in a $3 million conspiracy to rip-off customers by selling phony consulting services to timeshare owners.
- A judge sentenced a man in Connecticut to 14 months’ imprisonment for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme that involved falsifying documents and straw buyers.
- A judge in Georgia sentenced a man involved in a property-flipping scheme to nine years in prison and ordered him to pay over $5.8 million in restitution for losses he caused to financial institutions.
- A California judge sentenced a brokerage owner to 12 months and one day imprisonment and $200,000 in fines, and ordered her to pay over $208,000 in restitution for her involvement in a bank fraud scheme involving a fraudulent mortgage loan application.
Can Goldman Wetzel defend me against mortgage fraud charges?
Our defense attorneys handle multiple types of fraud charges – including those for mortgage fraud. If you are in need of counsel, contact Goldman Wetzel at 727-828-3900 and request a meeting with a fraud and theft attorney.