A Miami loan officer for Great Country Mortgage Bankers pleaded guilty in April to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. For his role in a larger plan to commit mortgage fraud, he was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months in prison and ordered to pay $9.2 million in restitution. The federal court levied the sentence this week.
The Miami Mortgage Fraud Strike Force joined with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Inspector General in investigating a series of loans that led to significant losses when buyers defaulted. Fraudulent Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage applications, as well as other necessary documents, were filed for unqualified buyers. The buyers would receive kickbacks after the closing process was complete. The buyers never had any intention of paying for the properties involved.
The real estate in question included two condominium complexes, one in Miami and the other in Merritt Island. The false information was used to get loans to buy condos in the complexes. HUD was left to cover the losses when the buyers failed to pay the mortgages.
The case is part of a far-reaching effort in Florida and all across the country to recoup some of the money lenders lost when the real estate market turned. Anyone who participated in questionable or improper loans could quickly find themselves investigated by a real estate fraud task force. Many of the sentences handed out have been unprecedented in their severity.
Source: The Miami Herald, “Price of mortgage fraud: 4 ½ years, $9.2 million,” by Martha Brannigan, 25 June 2012