A white collar crime that is one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., mortgage fraud is a federal offense, defined as a misstatement, misrepresentation, or omission f a relevant and important detail that an underwriter or lender would rely upon to fund, purchase, or insure a property loan. Any actor in the property purchasing process, including lenders and applicants, may engage in activity that would be categorized as mortgage fraud in Naples or Broward County. Always seek the assistance of a Fort Lauderdale mortgage fraud defense lawyer immediately after you’re charged.
Like many white collar crimes, mortgage fraud is a general term that describes a group of related offenses. Examples of illegal activities that constitute this type of crime include:
- inflating appraisal value to get a loan for more than the property is worth;
- claiming income or assets the borrower does not have;
- posing as a borrower on behalf of another person who will actually make the purchase;
- pretending to assist economically distressed homeowners for the purpose of skimming off equity.
Mortgage fraud is on the rise in Florida. Knowing the characteristics related schemes can make it easier to avoid becoming involved with illegal activity.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Some people have been able to legitimately make large sums of money by flipping property, particularly during the pre-recession real estate boom. When a person flips a property, he or she purchases a home then resells the property at a higher price. On its own, property flipping is not illegal. However, some house flippers violate federal laws by selling the property at an artificially inflated price. The seller will often produce a fraudulent appraisal to make the inflated price seem valid.
Fraud for housing
Every day in Broward County and throughout Florida, people may commit fraud for housing without realizing the potential consequences of their conduct. Fraud for housing occurs when a person provides false information about his or her employment, income, or assets to qualify for a mortgage. For example, a person who wants to purchase a home that is outside of his or her affordable price range may falsely claim additional income or assets to qualify for a larger loan amount.
Mortgage fraud for profit
Mortgage industry professionals also sometimes work in a fraudulent manner with other professionals in the mortgage lending industry. Fraud for profit, also referred to as “insider fraud” involves a group of people, each of whom plays a different role in the fraud. For example, a property owner may have a building that is in a state of disrepair and conspire with an appraiser to inflate the value of the property and sell it at a higher price. The actors may receive differing percentages of the proceeds based on their role in the fraud.
Typically committed by individuals who are involved in a criminal organization, fraud for criminal enterprise is oftentimes committed for the purpose of laundering money the group obtains from other illegal activities. Members of these organizations will falsify loan applications and pay the money back using criminal proceeds, which obscures the original source of the money and makes it more difficult for law enforcement to detect the illegal enterprise.
How is it prosecuted?
In Florida, mortgage fraud is prohibited by state law; therefore, these cases may be adjudicated in state courts. However, mortgage fraud is also a federal offense. Therefore, the FBI may quickly become involved, and the accused party may sentenced to serve up to 30 years in prison and pay up to $1 million in fines, depending on the severity of the case. In less severe cases, the accused may be charged with a misdemeanor. The stakes may rise very quickly for a person who is accused of this type of crime; therefore, having an experienced attorney from the beginning is of paramount importance. In some cases, an individual may become involved in a fraudulent scheme without fully being aware of the extent of the criminal activity. An attorney can help the individual avoid being convicted of charges that exceed his or her role in the crime.
Always consult with an attorney immediately
For anyone who is facing federal mortgage fraud charges in Florida, finding the right attorney for legal counsel and support is key. Hiring an experienced Naples, Fort Lauderdale or Broward County mortgage fraud defense attorney can ensure the protection of the accused’s constitutional rights in addition to offering the advantage of having a proven, skilled legal professional at work to fight against potentially devastating criminal charges. Being accused of fraud can instantly ruin an individual’s professional and personal reputation. This is especially true of individuals who work in finance-related industries. Therefore, it is important to choose a lawyer who will help mitigate any professional damage and work tirelessly to ensure the accused party is treated as if he or she is innocent until proven guilty.