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Real Estate and Mortgage Fraud
The greater the number of property transfers, the greater the number of cases of real estate and mortgage fraud. These two types of fraud are distinctly different but related because they both involve fraudulent practices involving the purchase or transfer of property.
Real estate and mortgage fraud can be perpetrated on the real estate company or lender on the one hand or the buyer of the property on the other hand. It may involve both state and federal crimes.
As with other types of fraud, the rewards for the fraudster are potentially very high, but the penalties if caught are also correspondingly high and those convicted can face long jail times, very steep fines and restitution to anyone who has been defrauded.
Real Estate Fraud
There are several ways that fraud can be practiced on victims, either those already in the real estate industry, or not. Some examples are:
fraudulent loan origination;
home improvement fraud;
Although each type of fraud is distinct from any other, they all take advantage of someone who finds themselves in a difficult position. For example, with foreclosure fraud the fraudster is a company that targets individuals or families that are facing foreclosure. The scam involves convincing the property owner to sign a temporary title transfer over to the company. The value of the title is usually significantly less than what it would be worth on the market. The original property owners are conned into ‘renting’ the property in what they think is a ‘leaseback’ arrangement. In reality, the fraudsters sell the property and the original owners are left having to pay off the mortgage.
Mortgage fraud is really just one variant of real estate fraud. As with other types of real estate fraud, either the buyer or the lender may commit the fraud. For example, one scam involves using a false purchase contract which has a higher purchase value than the real contract. The lender gets the fake contract with the result being an artificially high appraisal value.
Florida law on real estate and mortgage fraud
Florida statute 817.545 covers these types of fraud. It may be alleged that this type of fraud has been committed if the person or company has knowingly and intentionally set out to defraud someone else by:
filing a document involved in the mortgage process misrepresenting facts;
knowingly facilitating the misrepresentation of facts;
materially misrepresenting the facts in order to obtain a loan;
receiving material proceeds from the misrepresentation of facts.
Penalties for real estate and mortgage fraud
Penalties depend on the amount of money involved in the fraud and who has been defrauded. Federal penalties, if involved, are generally higher than state ones. All real estate and mortgage fraud is considered a felony offense. In Florida, amounts less than $100,000 are considered a third degree felony and amounts greater than that are a second degree felony offense.
For third degree felony convictions, there may be jail time of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Restitution to the victim may be ordered in addition to any fines imposed. Second degree felony convictions attract a fine of up to $10,000, jail for up to 15 years or both, plus restitution.
Contact a Miami criminal defense attorney if arrested for real estate or mortgage fraud
If you have been arrested for fraud, but believe that you are innocent or the facts have been misrepresented, you will need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Don’t risk your job, freedom and future. Contact Albert Quirantes Esq. at 305-644-1800 today!