Florida Retains Title As Nation's Mortgage Fraud Capital

The dismal housing market in Florida is showing signs of new life, but the improvements have had little impact on the state's mortgage fraud rates according to a recent report. Florida remains the top state for mortgage fraud. Law enforcement officials and fraud investigators are sure to take note.

The LexisNexis 14th Annual Mortgage Fraud Report placed Florida at or near the top in two mortgage fraud indexes. The annual report, formerly known as the MARI Fraud report, examines reports of residential mortgage fraud and misrepresentation among industry professionals in the United States.

Near Top in Two Measures of Mortgage Fraud

Florida is one of five states to rank in the top ten in Mortgage Fraud Index measures for incidents of fraud for both investigations in 2011 and loans originated in 2011. Michigan, California, Illinois and New York are the others.

  • Florida headed the list as the state with the highest Mortgage Fraud Index (MFI) for loans investigated in 2011. Its MFI of 766 is more than seven times the expected fraud rate for the state and is a significant jump from 2007, when the state's MFI for investigations was 225. Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, and Rhode Island rounded out the top five.
  • Florida's MFI for loans originated in 2011 ranked third, behind New Jersey and Colorado. Florida's MFI for originated loans was 227, or roughly twice the expected fraud rate. It's the state's lowest MFI in five years.

Data in the report showed that five major metro areas were the source of 46 percent of all reports of fraud and misrepresentation. Miami-Fort Lauderdale was among them, with 7 percent of the reports. Ahead of it was Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County, with 16 percent and Northern New Jersey-Long Island, with 11 percent.

Mortgage Fraud Increased as Housing Market Declined

Nationwide, reports of mortgage fraud increased in 2011. The FBI collected 93,508 Suspicious Activity Reports from federally insured financial institutions during fiscal year 2011, according to the Mortgage Fraud Report. The number is a 33 percent increase from the previous fiscal year.

Mortgage fraud accusations generally involve an alleged significant misstatement, misrepresentation or omission that an underwriter or lender relies on to fund or insure a loan. It can also target consumers directly, such as schemes for foreclosure rescue, short sales and loan modifications. Reports of mortgage fraud increased as the housing bubble burst.

Florida's housing market, among the hardest hit in the country, has begun to improve. Earlier this year, the National Association of Home Builders listed South Florida as a high achiever on an index that measures housing performance. The association said that while many markets on the index were not fully recovered, employment, home prices and housing production were holding steady.