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Mortgage Fraud in Today’s Scandal-Filled Economy
More and more criminal charges are being filed in both state and federal courts based on mortgage fraud, most stemming from activities that began in 2007 with the beginning of the U.S. Housing Crisis. There are any number of mortgage fraud scenarios that form the basis of federal or state charges of mortgage fraud; however, many mortgage fraud felony charges are based upon one or more of the following fact patterns:
- Fake or False Loan Documents are filed to get a mortgage loan (this can include identity theft);
- Appraisal fraud as the property value is fraudulently increased in order to get a bigger home loan; or
- Straw buyer is used to get the home loan and the equity in the house is skimmed away.
Federal Mortgage Fraud Investigations
Federal investigation of mortgage fraud is extremely active and federal agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation are publicly prominent in their pursuit of charges based upon a growing variety of allegations related to mortgage fraud schemes. Federal charges resulting from investigations into mortgage fraud can involve formal felony charges of bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and more – and in addition to felony jail time and fines, the federal prosecution may demand restitution in the form of millions of dollars.
- As of September 25, 2012, there were 69,030 “Mortgage Fraud Suspicious Activity Reports” filed with the federal government in fiscal year 2012, representing alleged losses of $2.6 billion;
- The FBI had 83 Mortgage Fraud Task Forces/Working Groups in operation during 2012;
- As of June 30, 2012 there were 2307 pending federal mortgage fraud investigations with 71% alleged to involve losses of at least $1,000,000;
- In fiscal year 2011, the federal government had filed 1220 indictments/informations and obtained 1089 convictions for mortgage fraud.
Texas Felony Investigations into Mortgage Fraud
Likewise, the State of Texas has been vigorous in pursuing charges of mortgage fraud. The Office of the Attorney General for the State of Texas has its own Residential Fraud Mortgage Task Force that operates as independent investigatory unit from the federal task force. The Texas Residential Mortgage Fraud Task Force investigation, however, is a limited one: charges will be investigated and pursued regarding only mortgage financing of 1-4 single family residences. Interim construction loans are not being targeted by the Texas task force.
Texas Criminal Mortgage Fraud
In Texas, criminal mortgage fraud is defined by the Texas Department of Banking as when:
a person intentionally or knowingly makes a materially false or misleading written statement to obtain a mortgage loan. Examples of criminal mortgage fraud includes, but is not limited to, illegally inflating property appraisals; concealing a second mortgage from a primary lender; and concealing or stealing a borrower’s identity.
Types of Texas Mortgage Fraud Charges
Texas Attorney General investigations into mortgage fraud appear to be targeting “mortgage-related scams;” “foreclosure rescue scams;” and “mortgage payoff scams.” If convictions are made under Texas fraud charges, the convictions will also result (as do the federal charges) in significant felony jail time as well as fines and the possibility that the district attorney will request full restitution from the convicted defendant.
Defending Against Allegations of Mortgage Fraud
Mortgage fraud cases are complicated with many documents and often they come with the need to bring in specialized experts in the areas of finance, appraisals, residential real estate, etc. For the experienced mortgage fraud defense lawyer, these cases are two-fold: first, there is the need to crack the weaknesses in the government’s case and find areas where it will be difficult or impossible for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that one element of their charge is true.
Second, there is the task of building independent defenses to the allegations that have been made against the defendant. Many of these defendants are professionals with solid backgrounds and careers who have a clean record with the law prior to the mortgage fraud charges. Defense mortgage fraud clients often include:
- Real estate appraisers
- Real estate brokers
- Bank loan officers
- Mortgage company officers
Texas Mortgage Fraud Defense Lawyer
As a former prosecutor turned criminal defense lawyer with over 150 jury trials defending clients against charges brought by district attorneys and U.S. federal prosecutors in Dallas County, Tarrant County, and elsewhere in the State of Texas, Board Certified Criminal Lawyer Michael Lowe not only brings his years of experience to each case, he also dedicates 100% of his law practice to the defense of those being accused of a crime under Texas or federal law.
With a streamlined law firm that coordinates its efforts to give each client the personal attention that they need and deserve when fighting against the government and the possibility of jail time, fines, permanent marks on public records, prison incarceration, loss of licensure, loss of jobs, absence from family events and everyday living, Michael Lowe maintains an efficient and excellent criminal trial practice that is ready to help you or your loved ones in your defense against criminal charges from pre-arrest investigation to post-trial appeals.
To discuss your case in a free and completely confidential consultation, please contact Dallas Board Certified Criminal Lawyer Michael Lowe today.